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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/

Africa and Content Consumption: Rise of the Mobile Continent

Africa and Content Consumption: Rise of the Mobile Continent

Africa’s mobile phone adoption over the last 15 years have been impressive. With around 67 percent, or 1.13 billion population of Africa using mobile phones, it is often referred to as ‘The Mobile Continent’.

According to Informa , the continent has become the second most connected region in the world in terms of mobile subscription. For a continent with more than 50.3 million Facebook users, it goes without saying that a vast majority of the population primarily consume content on mobile phones.

In countries like Nigeria and Kenya, the high rate of mobile phone adoption is bringing significant changes in the lives of the tech savvy population of the continent. What differentiates Africa is, unlike other continent, Africa is a ‘mobile-only’ continent. In Africa, unlike other countries of the world, internet is not another option, but the only option. As the continent still fights for electricity, millions of people experience the internet for the first time on a cellphone screen.

The explosion of mobile devices has given way to a world of possibilities for TV and media consumption in Africa. Users are no more restricted by time or place when it comes to entertainment, but watch their favorite videos or television any time of the day as per their convenience.

A 2015 research conducted by Ericsson reveals that 63 percent of students and 59 percent of young white-collar professionals in Kenya prefer to watch content of their choice on a personal device. Shorter video content is very popular, with about 77 percent users preferring to watch content on the smartphones. The study also reveals that 53 percent of young white-collar professionals are interested in mobile video on-demand.

“Mobile video is particularly prominent in Middle East/African regions, where 72 percent of online consumers report watching video on mobile phones at least once a month, and almost 37 percent say they do so at least once a day,” reports global market research company Nielsen.

The growth of online content industry is further underlined by the production of local content for online consumption. Nollywood, financed at Lagos and filmed in make-shift sets, has become second largest film industry in the world by volume. The industry, with its annual turnover of $500 million supplies content in the form of CDs and DVDs throughout Africa and African communities worldwide.

For example, iROKO Partners, owned by British-Nigerian serial entrepreneur Jason Njoku has six million viewers in 178 countries. Dubbed Africa’s Netflix, iROKO streams Nigerian content in the form of movies and music through its platform.

Taking clue from iROKO’s business model, which is built around ease of access, other local players are also venturing to provide content online. Wabona provides online pay-per-view video streaming service while another South African start-up, Bozza provides a mobile platform for local filmmakers, artists, and entrepreneurs to distribute their content.

According to Alan Knott-Craig, former CEO of free instant messaging application Mxit, African consumers are hungry for online content and are ready to pay for the same. To address the need, Mxit has created a movie portal that allows its users to watch feature-length pieces in five to six parts.

As Africa’s online content consumption grows, broadcasters are focused on African origin content, which amounts to almost 70 percent of the content consumption in the continent. International investors are also becoming increasingly aware of the potential of African content businesses. It is undeniable that online content is a major industry in Africa, and if the bandwidth constraints and data cost are addressed, the continent will be the largest consumer of online media.