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The Future of the OB Truck

The Future of the OB Truck

Are OB trucks too expensive to survive in a world that is moving toward digital news delivery and mobile, small-screen news consumption? As Broadcasters shift to 4K UHD live broadcasting and adopt IP for experimenting with more immersive consumer-facing formats, does this pronounce the death of the OB trucks?

With the live production scenario evolving every day, many believe IP production and broadcast will phase out OB trucks in the future. Adam Cox[1] lists the cost of cabling, equipment, and production, scalability, and emergence of the 4K camera as some reasons why IP will overpower OB trucks.

But are these challenges so empowering? Let’s explore.

Outside broadcasting is broadcasting live from the event using make-shift studio equipment like a camera linked to a van to transmit the signals back to the network center. Typically, broadcasters station huge OB trucks spanning more than 10 meters on-site, having production, engineering, and sound units to cover events live from the place of occurrence.

However, with broadcasters experimenting on formats and tools, as reporting live on social media like Facebook and Instagram gains popularity, will OB trucks cease to exist? While we look for the answer, let us explore the challenges that the OB trucks face in present times and the alternatives:

The changing face of content consumption

As social media, IPTV, and OTT have evolved as a primary means of content consumption, the definition of experience has changed. Now better experience does not mean a bigger TV on the wall, but a connected device which enables users to watch their preferred content across devices as per their convenience.

This new connected world has blurred the need of having a separate facility and technology for a new form of content – be it a studio, OB truck, or a broadcast center. As a mobile camera replaces high-end cameras and live TV replaces broadcast, the technology, and facilities that primarily defined the boundaries of SDI are blurred.

Result? On-the-go/live content creation is no longer solely dependent on having OB trucks on site.

Remote production

The way broadcasters consume content has changed drastically. Multiple onsite cameras capture events and feed into the central hub of assets, from which the stakeholders can pick and choose content to suit their requirement. Content is a shared asset, and no longer has a definite start and end.

While OB trucks remain at the front line of covering live events, connectivity-focused tools promote collaboration between broadcasters. Hence, although remote productions become more popular, mobile units (or OB trucks) will be broadcaster-specific than event-specific.

New content formats

With the popularity of IP TV, content providers are now focusing on providing an immersive experience. As VR content and 360-degree videos gain popularity, OB trucks need to evolve to facilitate the production of these formats.

Moreover, with contents being consumed across platforms, OB trucks (or any production units) need to cater to the demand of content in varied formats. As production units use artificial intelligence for post-production, OB trucks need to rise from being a mere technical production facility to producing OTT and IPTV-native content.

Will mobile journalism sunset OB trucks?

Legacy broadcasters like BBC and CNN are experimenting with online video news to reach younger audiences in this changing environment. Digital players like NowThis and BuzzFeed are focusing on building an audience for platforms like Facebook and YouTube. Recently, NDTV 24X7 shot their stories on a Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphone.

Newscasters have started reporting live from the venue using applications like Skype, Hangout, Google’s Duo, etc. Mobile phone cameras are replacing DSLRs to capture superior quality images and videos to be telecasted directly.

The future

While many might argue that mobile journalism essentially does the job of OB tasks – report live from ground zero, OB trucks has much more to offer than what mobile will ever do. With its advanced facilities allowing for editing on-the-go, switch between multiple cameras, and advanced graphics among others, OB trucks have the potential to deliver high-quality broadcast live.

OB trucks are here to stay. However, to be future-ready, broadcasters need to ramp up the technology to support 4K and 8K broadcast across multiple platforms. With the Internet of Things, OB trucks need to be more integrated and advanced to deliver a world-class experience to the viewers, irrespective of the platform they choose to watch.

[1] http://hometownnetworks.tv/future-of-outside-broadcasting-ob-vans/

OTT: The Way Ahead

OTT: The Way Ahead

Over-the-top content (OTT) service providers like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon are showing massive uptake by consumers who want to view content as per their choice of time and platform. According to Juniper Research titled Mobile & Online TV & Video: OTT, IPTV & Connected Markets 2015-2019[1], OTT subscription is forecasted to generate $31.6 billion in revenue by 2019.

As traditional broadcasters face increased competition from OTT service providers, let us take a look at the future of OTT.

New providers in the market

While countries like the United States have already adopted OTT and are on the verge of saturation, developing countries with high mobile penetration and adoption rates of pay-TV and broadband are witnessing increasing popularity of OTT services. A  Digital TV Europe Research[2] estimates that developing countries like Eastern Europe, Middle East & Africa will see greater growth in revenues and that of Latin America will nearly triple from 2015.

Driven by rising mobile data usage, mobile is becoming an important medium to deliver OTT service in East European countries, Middle East & Africa. Pay-TV providers, mobile operators, broadcasters and media companies are expanding their OTT services in these regions either by launching their OTT services or partnering with regional OTT players. For example, UAE-based mobile operator Etlisat has introduced eLife ON, Saudi Arabian Mobily has mView, Times Media Group has an OTT service called VIDI in South Africa, and Pay-TV operator OSN has launched GO across MENA.

SVOD is catching up

Viewers are increasingly opting for OTT services like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Video, which gives them the freedom to choose the content they want to consume across different platforms. Millennials are adopting subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services faster than their older counterparts. A report from BI Intelligence highlights younger viewers watch four times as much video content online than aged viewers. The popularity of SVOD services like YouTube, Sling TV, and PlayStation Vue further underlines this fact.

For SVOD services, usability is the key. Companies need to innovate to leverage OTT and SVOD services to reach out to more viewers. For example, YouTube has launched offline viewing for consumers to download videos and watch it at their convenience – even when there is no mobile connectivity.

With the first screen of the millennials being the mobile screen, digitization provides a huge opportunity for SVOD providers to grow their business. Content creators and marketers can reap the benefits from SVOD adoption. Content creators can profit from the surge in the short-form video, while marketers can capitalize on advanced product placements.

More connected TVs

Thanks to connected TVs, which include streaming devices like Apple TV, gaming consoles, Web-enabled TV sets, and TVs connected to the Internet by laptops in the group, monetization is also growing. According to FreeWheel, an ad-serving company whose clients include major video providers such as AOL, Crackle, Fox, NBCUniversal, Viacom, and Vevo, more than one-third of monetization was led by OTT devices. An eMarketer report[3] estimates that by 2018, 191.4 million or 58.2 percent of the U.S. population will use a connected TV device to access the Internet.

Changing fundamentals of content creation

OTT has unlocked transformational changes in how the content is created and consumed. The availability of unlimited content space has given more freedom to experiment and has provided audiences for all kinds of content. Although most are amateurs, some are earning millions of dollars, while contributing to the depth and breadth of content available to consumers.

Further, the increase of mobile and streaming access has enhanced consumers’ ability to choose what they watch and where and when they watch it. With the rise in mobile use, the demand for short-form, high-quality content, also called ‘snackable content’ has also witnessed a massive growth. Consumers are turning to live, user-generated video and “citizen journalists” for news related to developing events or stories. For example, The Young Turks, which offers short-form news videos on relevant topics around the world every day has become a key news destination for millennials.

The launch of Facebook Live in April 2016, which makes it easier “to create, share, and discover live videos” further highlights the changing fundamentals of content creation. Content creators are also focusing on introducing contextual parameters for content discovery. Factors like mood and current affairs are being taken into account apart from their viewing preference while making a content recommendation to the viewers.

To ensure successful adoption of OTT, service providers must address three critical challenges – aggregation, subscription churn, and transparency. As consumers look to fulfill the 3Ws – watch what they want, when they want to, and where they want – OTT providers not only need to manage content but also create new content and recreate legacy content to retain subscribers. Proper archiving, digitization and tagging of content will help in aggregation while generating content across various formats will provide shared experience across devices and help in customer retention.

[1] https://www.juniperresearch.com/press/press-releases/ott-tv-market-to-increase-fourfold-reaching-32bn

[2] https://www.digitaltvresearch.com/ugc/Global%20OTT%202016%20TOC_toc_149.pdf

[3] http://digiday.com/platforms/ott-video-going-5-charts/