2018 technology trends

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Virtualization – The Way Ahead for Broadcasters

Virtualization – The Way Ahead for Broadcasters

Virtualization is the doing-away of physical infrastructure in favor of software mimicking the hardware’s functions. From the viewpoint of broadcasters, however virtualization is the employment of equipment to perform a variety of tasks simultaneously or a shared piece of machinery that serves multiple studios or locations. Specialized software running on high-powered machines eliminates the need for dedicated, often-expensive equipment performing individual tasks.

Disney, one of the earliest adopters of the Cloud have set forth an ambitious plan to take their massive master broadcast facilities at New York City and Burbank, California and diffuse them globally – broadcasting from data centers around the world. They feel it critical to separate the data center from the broadcast center. Disney’s host of cable-based channels are preparing for their move to the Cloud.

The BBC has found virtualization to be the way ahead in the race against redundancy that most radio broadcasters are facing. The BBC’s Virtual Local Radio (ViLoR) project centralizes the infrastructure of four major stations at one remote, shared location. While the local stations from four major UK cities shall compile their content independently, their audio files shall be stored, streamed, mixed and processed at the central data center. As radio channels come up against budget-trimming by parent organizations, they can look towards virtual stations to keep up their operations without compromising on the scale.

Hardware heavyweights NVIDIA have devised an ingenious method of optimizing the use of their products. Known for their Graphical Processing Units (GPUs), the firm has set up gargantuan blocks of interconnected GPUs which can be remotely accessed by paying customers – albeit at a fraction of the price of a physical unit. NVIDIA’s workstation grade Quadro & TESLA cards can render video and process data at lightning speeds. By decentralizing the usage of its cards, NVIDIA has ensured optimal and future-proof utilization of its products.

Besides being an obvious financial asset, the adoption of virtualization grants a plethora of benefits to broadcasters both small and large.

Being unfettered from carry-along apparatus has given increased mobility to broadcasters. Growing network speeds and the advent of 5G means it is exponentially easier to set up pop-up stations and better, wider on-ground coverage. Having software-based computing power further allows creative freedom and experimentation. Launching new services over a broadcaster’s existing distribution network is a quicker, less cumbersome process.

Troubled organizations, those which pumped in significant resources into setting up equipment have found a lifeline in virtualization. Letting out leftover space on servers remotely or granting access to their specialized machinery through software-based virtual interfaces – these companies recover costs faster, some even generating profits.

Content creators have struggled to maintain a healthy distance between themselves and the infrastructure support in an organization. Media specialists have long bemoaned limited knowledge of equipment and technicalities prohibiting their creativity. Virtualization provides a seamless way for journalists to avoid the everyday altercations with physical machinery and divert their energies to creating content.

With many of the industry bigwigs already on-board and newcomers seeing the many advantages of a virtual station, embracing a virtual future is soon to become an industry norm.

5G – The Next Generation Network Is Here

5G – The Next Generation Network Is Here

Pace is the pin-up word in today’s world. Everything should be speedy, efficient, clear with minimum latency time. And it won’t be inappropriate to say that 5G or 5th Generation best represents that. 5G, the much anticipated future network aims at higher capacity communication network which is faster, denser and provides ultra-high-definition output. In short, better implementation of the Internet of Things.

Going by the predictions, there would be 550 million 5G subscriptions by 2022 and 10% of the world population would be covered by 5G networks. 1

5G in Television and Media

Who can deny the impact 4G has made on media and broadcasting industry? It became the trigger point of television’s changing landscape where it brought television viewing from a television set or our computers to individual mobile interface. It paved the way for huge consumption of mobile videos and helped expand the market for everything be it films, music, news, television shows, or any other form of video content.

5G network aims to surpass 4G standards manifolds in terms of data bandwidth, frequency, technology supremacy, high-quality streaming and reduced network congestion.

  • Disruptions Foreseen in Broadcast Industry

While 5G will provide us world class viewing experience, it could also open the door for some serious industry disruption.

  • Innovative Content

Content consumption will bear a major impact due to huge technical improvements in terms of speed and quality. Consumers will enjoy huge improvements with a significant decrease in download and upload speeds.

Almost zero latency is surely going to feed the impatient DNA of the viewers’. This will also help narrow the gap between quality and speed and live streaming of content and virtual reality content will see an uprise in the market forcing its creators for more innovative, original and creative content.

  • Value Chain Effects

The Internet has made ‘Content its King’ keeping major profit margins towards the content innovators. The onset of 5G is predicted to divert the route towards distributors forcing content providers to pay more for efficient streaming of their content.

  • Consumption Effects

Streaming content has been a winner to date with low costs and inferior technology being the key reasons. 5G bringing a major change in download speed bringing it down to microseconds will make downloaded content more feasible and popular in coming times.2

Challenges

But there are two sides to a coin. On one hand, it provides an ideal environment for television broadcast with its top class features like enhanced network speed and technology advancements, it also hints at becoming a threat to the standard ways with which we have watched content until now through cable, satellite, IPTV and broadcast providers, market of which is approximately $500 billion. 3

Some of the challenges 5G would bring in are :

  • Out of the box, content has to be offered to leverage the huge shift from contemporary to mobility.
  • Data rates would be something to watch out for as all advancements lead to increase in costs.
  • Stability and consistency will play a major role in the network’s success keeping in mind the continuous increase in the number of users.
  • The efficiency of end-to-end providence will determine the real-time feasibility of 5G network.
  • Huge investments would be required to upgrade the technology and meet 5G standards.

The Future

It is too soon to comment or anticipate the future of 5G Network. If we look backward, each generation which has come up has aimed at fixing flaws of its predecessors. First mobile network in 1980’s was followed by GSM in 1990. 3G arrived at the onset of the century and LTE rolled out in 2010. 4G was introduced to make consuming data a less unpleasant experience. The work is still in progress and if we go by statistics, 4G is yet to be even launched in various parts of the country.

But the trail seems to break here. It seems difficult to think of any major challenge we can put across 5G which is worth such huge infrastructural investments and changes. Right now, 5G is only a concept whose standards have yet to be established. It is likely to take few years to finalize the whole 5G structure. The foundations are being laid with lots of funding coming from EU, South Korea, US, and the UK to build up 5G research facility.

The momentum is surely building up. A super-fast, super-efficient wireless network is all set to make its mark in the media world by 2020.  It promises to provide us the ability to watch television content over a 5G network connection rather than fixed broadband, cable or satellite in its best form. In fact, the conjunction of speed and technological advancements can create an ideal environment for the television market.

The industry knows what it wants. Internet of things, telehealth systems, smart city infrastructure are some of the features set to figure in 5G thinking. What finally forms a part of 5G spectrum, only coming years would tell. 4

What will 2018 hold for media broadcasters?

What will 2018 hold for media broadcasters?

2018 will see broadcasters streamline their content, technology, and operations for a new segment of customers who consume content on-demand. Driven by the changing content consumption, we foresee media organizations looking at following:

Dawn of the OTT Era

Industry reports reveal that an average Indian consumes 8.5 hours of video content every month on Facebook and YouTube, which accounts for 47 percent and 42 percent of market share. Add the popularity of Over the Top (OTT) platforms like Hotstar, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Jio TV, and VOOT to that, and you’d realize that the way Indians consume digital content has changed over the years.

In India, the popularity can be attributed to access to faster and cheaper internet, affordable smartphones, and the wide range of content on offer. With over 460 million internet users, India is the second largest online market[1] whose smartphone penetration rate is expected to reach more than 28 percent by 2018.

While some broadcasters have already launched their platform like Ozee, others will pick this trend in 2018 and look at launching their platforms. Some may also look to optimize and produce their content on commercially successful OTT operators. Broadcasters will be seen investing in tools and technology to prepare their content and distribute it to CDNs.

Solving the Content Conundrum

OTT has changed the way content is created and consumed. As viewers consume content anytime, anywhere, and on any device, the demand for short-form, high quality ‘snackable’ content has been on the rise. Citizen journalism is gaining momentum, with viewers recording events and posting live on social media for the global audience.

Original, consistent, and addictive content is on demand. With players like Apple planning to invest over $1 billion in original content and Facebook spending a chunk of its marketing budget on content, fresh content production depending on current affairs, mood, and preference of the viewers is on the rise.

However, creating fresh consumable content is only one side of the story. To retain subscribers and provide a shared experience across devices, OTT providers also need to recreate the legacy content with proper archiving, metadata and tagging, and digitization. For this, broadcasters will need to dig into their archives to sort, organize, digitize, restore and optimize legacy content to enable easy search, access, and distribution of content across channels.

Embracing Virtualization

Newer digital broadcast avenues like OTT are creating pressure on traditional broadcasters to lower their Broadcast Operations and Engineering (BO&E) budgets. A survey by Devoncroft reveals that more than 40% M&E vendors have products that operate in a virtualized environment. While it is debatable if ‘virtualization’ refers to only IT infrastructure or the entire content supply chain, the fact is – new, small, and medium-sized broadcasters are gradually migrating their infrastructure to cloud-based solutions.

Moving to IP comes with the benefits of using a standardized connectivity and infrastructure to transport videos from locations to the central facilities and on to distribution. Therefore, broadcasters will continue digital transformation keeping content at the center of business to achieve faster time-to-market, scalability, and agility at a lower TCO.

Enhanced User Experience with 4K, HD Formats

A 2016-report by Chrome Data Analytics and Media[2] reveals that 8.34 million households in India have HD televisions, of which 89 percent have DTH HD connection and 11 percent have digital cable HD connection. However, only 9 percent or 91 channels out of 857 permitted private satellite television stations and more than 190 government channels in India are High Definitions (HD).

With the market share of OLEDs, 3D and 4K television increasing every day, viewers often forget to ask – does India have enough 4K and 3D channels? Wikipedia lists only five 4K channels and one 3D channel.

To address the change in viewership, media organizations will continue to upgrade their technical infrastructure to broadcast in HD or beyond (4K). With 2019 General Elections in sight, it is expected that news broadcasters will upgrade their technology, investing in workflows and solutions for presentation and analysis of election results in high definition.

To summarize, 2018 and 2019 will be the year of digital transformation and adoption of technology focusing on improving the viewer experience.