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Intelligence for the media & entertainment industry

APRIL 2019

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CONTENT

THIS IS A LAND OF CONFUSION

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always try not to turn this column into ‘Jenny’s rant of the month’ but this month I’m going to have to change that. For those of a nervous Brexit disposition please look away now. I always expected to be writing a farewell to Europe this month but with the ongoing farce in both Westminster and Brussels that’s gone out the window. To be honest, by the time you read this everything could have changed again! The sad thing is that while politicians have been fixating on the backstop etc there remains major parts of the deal that have still not been clarified. Everyone working in

Editor: Jenny Priestley jenny.priestley@futurenet.com Staff Writer: Dan Meier dan.meier@futurenet.com Graphic Designer: Marc Miller marc.miller@futurenet.com Managing Design Director: Nicole Cobban nicole.cobban@futurenet.com Contributors: George Jarrett, Philip Stevens, Paolo Pescatore

production to engineering to the technology employed when it comes to dealing with both breaking news and outside broadcasting (which can’t have been fun in London in February and March). Of course if this was all happening in 18 months time (and it could still be) would the arrival of 5G make producing those OBs easier for broadcasters? Would College Green still be strewn with hastily put together platforms with more cameras stationed inside the Lobby? Or could newsrooms send down just the one camera that can roam around with the presenter or journalist? If it’s a good

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the media and technology industries knows that the issues over freedom of movement of both people and goods are going to hugely impact our business. But what will it mean for productions in the UK? For Brits attending IBC? There are still so many unanswered questions. I will allow there are some positives to this mess - and that’s been the fantastic live coverage offered by broadcasters. I’ve watched coverage from the UK, Europe and US over the past few weeks as the House of Commons has voted on one amendment or another. What that has shown me once again is the expertise within our industry from

enough scenario for sports broadcasting then why not news as well? You might have guessed that 5G is our focus for this issue. We speak to the EBU, EE and the BBC in an effort to understand its impact across the telco and broadcast industries. Plus, if you’re heading to Las Vegas in April, we’re delighted to to include a chat with NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith about this year’s show, and a look forward to 2020. Maybe Brexit will be sorted out by then… n

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JENNY PRIESTLEY, EDITOR

TVBEUROPE APRIL 2019 | 3


IN THIS ISSUE

APRIL 2019

9 The importance of straight shooting in esports

Cerberus Tech CEO Chris Clarke on delivering platforms for esports applications

10 The potential of 5G multicast

George Jarrett finds out how the EBU are testing the possibilities of 5G

16 What happens in Vegas

TVBEurope asks NAB president Gordon Smith what to expect at this year’s show

22 5G: The G to end all Gs?

16

Jenny Priestley talks to BT’s Gavin Jones and BT Sport’s Jamie Hindhaugh about 5G use cases

28 5G: What does the future hold for consumers?

Futuresource principal technology analyst Simon Forrest discusses 5G’s public impact

39 Delivering content for multiple devices

Philip Stevens investigates two different forms of content delivery networks

44 A Ziva moment

22

Ziva Dynamics co-CEO James Jacobs reveals how students can benefit from its character creation software

50 What has 5G ever done for us?

44

Dan Meier explores the BBC’s 5G development work

53 Five services dominate SVoD revenues in Europe Kagan’s Michail Chandakas looks behind the numbers


OPINION AND ANALYSIS

What will the 5G revolution mean for pay-TV?

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By Simon Trudelle, senior director product marketing, NAGRA

G currently occupies a curious space – it already feels like an established technology with a clearly defined range of capabilities, but aside from field tests, there isn’t a single consumer in the world who has experienced it yet. Its impact on the world, as yet, is only hypothetical. That said, there are of course plenty of guarantees that have been made; the bottom line being that it will indeed offer much-improved download data rates compared with 4G. As a result, the 5G revolution has already caused a mindset shift; consumers and business users increasingly expect a seamless and robust connectivity experience across all their devices – anytime, anywhere, any applications – regardless of the underlying physical network used. And they’ll only continue to expect more and more as time goes on. Naturally, with that extra bandwidth, and that higher density network, comes the opportunity to better leverage existing commercial and residential broadband infrastructure. But of course, the question for us is: what does 5G mean for the converged world of TV and video streaming? Let’s look at the current situation. Just with 4G, we’ve seen a remarkable take up of video services with consumers in some emerging market bypassing TV to jump to a mobile-first video service. It has also already meant new opportunities in specific markets for pay-TV and video service providers to expand their reach. But beyond simply higher speed, lower latency, and better efficiency, we might also expect to see some other interesting developments. For starters, we’re likely to see an accelerated consumer shift to mobile-first video, especially in emerging markets. We might also expect better quality live video footage, and therefore a proliferation of live content delivered via smartphone apps. Speculation aside, another big question for pay-TV is: will 5G solve the issue many pay-TV operators are having with onboarding adjacency services? At the latest Pay-TV Innovation Forum, a number of digital life innovation areas were identified that would be key to future pay-TV success; home security, home automation, and home entertainment devices. Essentially, these are the extra services that future-proofing pay-TV

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operators should be branching into. 5G may be the technology that unlocks this potential; those adjacency services – powered by 5G – may help differentiate service offerings and enable operators to target new consumer segments. Mass-market take-up is still currently below potential, but 5G could well be the thing that more efficiently connects these newer digital life devices and provides new personalised interactive services – especially for people living in smaller city dwellings. All of a sudden, adjacency services will look much more feasible, and much more appealing. Naturally, this leads us to our third and final question; that of security. More smart home devices for home security, energy management, home automation, entertainment, communications and consumer IT services invariably means more targets for hackers looking to harness “free compute” resources. 5G is bound to lead to more IoT devices in the home, making the issue of security even more central to our day-to-day lives. This could potentially lead to greater risk and higher costs if proper investments aren’t made at the very start. The industry therefore needs to maintain a laser focus on security alongside its investments in new network services. Before we get carried away with the super-powered promise of 5G, pay-TV operators must remain grounded and harness solutions that address every need – in terms of both content delivery and content security, as well as leveraging opportunities to safely launch new digital life services. Operators must rationalise architectures by selecting a scalable, modular, Cloud-based solution to unify all aspects of their content, data and device protection needs – regardless of which network or device they’re delivering content to. Crucially, they must also work with a partner who can deliver a solution specifically designed for converged networks; one that’s easy to deploy and addresses the need for scale and international reach. Ultimately, as we look ahead to a landscape shaped by 5G-powered anytime, anywhere content and seamless services, the key for operators will be to stay on top of threats just as much as the opportunities. n


OPINION AND ANALYSIS

Content is king, but data is the future By Andy Shenkler, chief product officer, Deluxe Entertainment Services Group

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eluxe’s new whitepaper, Lights, Camera, Data!, explores how the Cloud has become critical to ensuring studios, broadcasters and OTTs can meet consumer demands. The industry is still missing the opportunity to take advantage of the important benefits that data provides in a successful Cloud platform. Metadata helps content producers and distributors stay connected to video throughout its entire lifecycle, speeding up workflows and ultimately maximising monetisation. Here are 10 of the most tangible benefits of having this data at your fingertips: 1. Tell content owners the number of distributable service-ready versions for licensing in various territories Many content owners currently use logs or databases to inform them of the availability of various international versions, but those sources don’t mention how serviceable these versions are. 2. Help address sourcing and quality issues with suppliers Suppliers often mislead distributors regarding timelines, not taking into account the time it takes to successfully submit assets. With more visibility and data, licensors can better enforce their contracts and commitments from suppliers. 3. Provide additional insights into the content onscreen By strategically looking at the data, distributors can easily view granular information, such as how much footage contains a particular actor. This helps studios quickly react when someone starts trending, allowing them to capitalise on the opportunity by instantly surfacing related content. 4. Compliance management  Data can help identify content requiring additional editing to make it legally compliant in various territories. Compliance laws and standards constantly change, but AI can be used to mark content, attach it to metadata and accelerate a compliance edit.  5. Create more personalised user recommendations  With rich, easily available metadata coupled with fast processing, content featuring geographically or culturally relevant material can be marketed, featured and made available dynamically. 6. Derive insights into language pairings for more viewer-

ship opportunities If media companies are exploring ways to make more content available in new markets, certain language pairs are easier or more cost-effective to create than others. Data can recommend localisation based on global trends, then help inform and guide users to the most cost-effective upsell strategies. 7. SLA monitoring SLAs are commonly difficult to measure when the process includes multiple handoffs between vendors. With the ability to view into the end-to-end supply chain, media companies can quickly identify problematic vendors and adjust their process to resolve issues. A Cloud platform assists in alerting content owners and distributors, enabling them to follow up with problematic or backlogged vendors and develop a more judicious selection process.  8. Capacity planning  Metadata enables producers and distributors to have increased transparency into the complete content ecosystem and how content flows between various vendors. Companies can use data to anticipate the timing of the sequence and better plan for capacity needs, allowing them to provide aggregated regional or workflow specific capacities and forecast bottlenecks. 9. Improve cost effectiveness  Because each distribution point has its own requirements, knowing which assets can be reused and the unique needs of each distributor, companies can cost-effectively generate avails and focus on creating only new elements for a specific order. Tracking data on the different formats and versions of assets can dramatically accelerate the decision making process for version re-use – and even automate it. 10. Prepopulate orders  Companies can build on data to anticipate the needs and demand during specific periods of time, unlocking the ability to prepopulate orders and expedite their rate of getting to market. Trends are derived from previous order histories and used to predict future requests. OTT platforms have been successfully implementing this model by moving content to certain CDNs based on forecasted usage in order to accelerate the time from play button to screen. n

TVBEUROPE APRIL 2019 | 07


OPINION AND ANALYSIS

Enabling the convergence of media and mobility

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By Arun Bhikshesvaran, CMO, MediaKind

he way in which people are consuming their entertainment, sports and news video content is undergoing a profound change. According to a September 2018 Parks Associates whitepaper, by the end of 2017, US broadband households were spending nearly three hours per week watching video on a mobile phone, an increase of nearly 55 per cent since 2015. We can see how this changing behaviour is being reflected through the rise in streaming services and the emergence of new immersive formats and applications such as UHD, AR, VR and 360-degree video. In parallel, wireless networks have evolved rapidly leading to widespread availability of LTE networks coupled with attractively priced consumer devices. This combination of media and mobility has led to tremendous growth of video as a proportion of total traffic in mobile networks.   LTE stands out as the most dominant of the current mobile network access technologies. The Ericsson November 2018 Mobility Report suggests the number of LTE subscriptions has continued to grow strongly and is forecast to reach 5.4 billion by the end of 2024 (when it will make up more than 60 per cent of all mobile subscriptions). As a subset technology, Evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Services (eMBMS), also known as LTE Broadcast, has offered a necessary response to the video delivery needs of consumers, both in terms of its responsiveness and efficiency. By supporting automatic switchover from unicast to broadcast delivery, LTE Broadcast offers the capacity to seamlessly deliver HD quality mobile video to a large number of simultaneous viewers, as well as also providing the ability to natively support multicast video by enabling resource allocation to be independent of the viewer.  Since 2014, LTE Broadcast services have been tested and rolled out as small-scale commercial services by several operators; often in conjunction with premium sports. These include Verizon (Indy Car) and the BBC (2014 Commonwealth Games and 2015 FA Cup Final), as well as trials from operators including Korean Telecom, Telstra, EE and Vodafone in Australasia and Europe. These tests show that LTE Broadcast has proven its ability to deliver real-time performance, particularly in

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live stadium environments, where multiple users are accessing HD content simultaneously across a multitude of devices in a highly concentrated environment. However, widespread commercialisation of the potential offered by LTE Broadcast has not materialised as expected. Part of the reason is down to the device ecosystem. Older Android devices with operating systems prior to 8.1 could not support the technology, while budget Android devices and older smartphones and tablets do not have the necessary chipsets to support eMBMS. In addition, Apple has chosen not to support the technology in any of its iPhone or iPad range. These factors have impacted the commercial viability of large-scale LTE Broadcast services. However, the arrival of 5G could potentially overcome this lack of device support as all of the new 5G-ready chipsets will almost certainly include support for LTE Broadcast, along with newer variants such as the Broadcom branded LTE eMBMS/enTV. The rapid growth of 5G is already visible; Ericsson predicts major network deployments will come through by the end of 2020, with subscription uptake expected to be faster than LTE. As the proportion and types of video traffic in networks continues to rise across the world, the emergence of wireless 5G presents a unique opportunity to modernise workflows. Alongside device support, the increased bandwidth may well benefit in terms of contribution networks. For instance, we may well see a combination of 5G and LTE networks to help live broadcast events from mobile devices to TV channels.  Unlike previous mobile network transitions, 5G has the potential to enable the convergence between mobility, social and broadband, helping content to become ever more mobile in and outside of the home by handling incredible amounts of data and consequently, higher bandwidth to all TV everywhere devices. Although still at an early stage, the benefits of 5G provide a direct response to today’s bandwidth-hungry viewers by increasing the volume and speed of services, connectivity and network efficiency. In doing so, it will drive a revolution in how video is created, distributed and consumed. n


OPINION AND ANALYSIS

The importance of straight shooting in esports By Chris Clarke, CEO, Cerberus Tech

O

ur involvement in providing a platform for delivering video and data services over unmanaged and private networks for esports applications in particular has taught us a lot and therefore given us an understanding of how to address that industry’s requirements better than, I believe, most. However, I think our success in that arena is because Cerberus comes at it from a more enlightened perspective, which is largely because, in our experience, every single time we’ve interfaced with an esports production company that wants to expand its reach into the broadcast space, we’ve uncovered compromises that have been foisted upon them that don’t need to be there. For example, esport productions want 1080p/60 distribution; the default format of the fast-paced, high-framerate content that comes out of the game players’ machines. In order to get their events seen outside stadiums, arenas, halls, etc, and increasingly into the broadcast world, many esport productions attempted home-grown solutions, but the quality was often compromised. However, as revenue generated by these events started to increase, a lot of money started getting ploughed back into ever-higher production budgets, which in turn meant that they wanted to start looking at distributing the events properly. And in that move to “do it properly” they started talking to big service providers, who sold (and still sell) them what they have rather than what they need, and that’s where the problems start. For example, “Yes, we can enable you to reach those 10 cinemas. We’ll just do a satellite uplink for you… at 1080i/25.” And that requires a quality compromise, which the unwary soon find out is not something you want to do with gamers, and that’s one reason I’m not convinced the broadcast industry, at least the more traditional one, gets it – yet.

Some broadcasters who have dipped their toes into esports have subsequently admitted making a mistake by in some cases attempting to “improve” on original values (read “compromise”) only to face a torrential backlash for “interfering”. Authenticity in the gaming world is everything, so what’s authentic about converting to 1080i/25? Remember what I said about compromise? For gamers, 1080i/25 on the big screen just isn’t going to cut it. To think that you can interfere with the performance and parameters of what, to gamers, is sacrosanct. i.e., the authenticity of the game is a world that broadcasters haven’t quite got to grips with, despite banging on about quality for decades. Broadcast manufacturers claiming to “know better” has already proven to be a perilous path in IT, let alone in gaming, which is comparable to IT on unlimited rocket fuel. The revenue projected to be generated by esports is estimated at well over $1 billion for 2019, and it’s growing rapidly. A significant amount is being ploughed back into production to improve standards and quality output to the - literally - millions of esports fans who simultaneously watch these competitions while packed into stadiums, or streamed to whatever device they choose. A few years ago we did a livestream to YouTube of a quarterfinal match of an esports league. By the time the finals came around, we were stunned to find that 53 million people watched that final on YouTube alone. For comparison, the most watched Summer Olympics in the USA (Atlanta 1996) drew a little over 33 million American viewers, and those US viewing figures have been basically trending downwards ever since. So, we need to make the effort to understand what this nascent industry wants and use our expertise to help make it happen, but at the moment that’s mostly not what we’re giving them. n

TVBEUROPE APRIL 2019 | 09


FEATURE

THE POTENTIAL OF 5G MULTICAST George Jarrett talks to the EBU about their work testing the potential of 5G

PICTURED ABOVE: Darko Ratkaj (left), Antonio Arcidiacono

B

ack at IBC 2018 the clever cookies knew they had seen an exciting 5G multicast/broadcast functionality solution that will both negate and complement the core restrictive unicast nature of 5G. Then at the MWC in Barcelona, 5G-Xcast blew plenty more minds with its demonstrators and proof of concept aspects, led by live video transmissions to multiple consumer devices. It was hosted by Enensys and staged by the EBU and IRT working in tandem. 5G-Xcast is a European Commission Horizon 2020 innovation project, identified officially as a 5G-PPP Phase II focus on the enablers for broadcast and multicast

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communications via fifth generation wireless systems. It closes at the end of July, so to get a handle on what it promises in what environments, and under what pressures for follow-ups and 3GPP involvement, TVBEurope caught up with Antonio Arcidiacono, EBU director of Technology and Innovation, and Darko Ratkaj, senior project manager, EBU. The technical enablers born from 5G-Xcast are led by 5G for broadcast and multicast, but the project has looked at end-to-end quality of service for media, public warning systems with their similar requirements, plus very specific automotive and IoT scenarios.


FEATURE “Nobody controls the whole chain anymore, especially in the IP world, so how can you ensure the quality of service end-to-end?” asks Ratkaj. “The 5G-Xcast group also looked at how you would enable corporate TV news or terrestrial TV networks (DTT networks) and 5G. “It was a small topic in the project but important because if you want to continue delivering linear TV over a terrestrial broadcast network, and at the same time have access to 5G, you need functionalities like handover, synchronisation and dissemination,” he adds. After a final demo in June, and wrapping in July, how will subsequent actions and plans shape up, especially around 3GPP involvement? “There are activities in 3GPP that are related or that are relevant now, but the project itself has no access to 3GPP,” says Ratkaj. “The project is not a member of 3GPP, but a number of the project partners (EBU, the BBC, Samsung, Nokia, etc) are involved in 3GPP and could take contributions and propose that 3GPP does include certain facilities. “But 3GPP is so huge and may have different solutions that are not necessarily compatible or easy to integrate with the 5G-Xcast solution. That standardisation part is still not answered,” he adds. “There is an activity within 3GPP which looks at further improving the current broadcast/ multicast functionality in the standard, but how far it will go is unclear. What we do not expect is a completely new 5G-based standard or a set of specifications for broadcast or multicast in the coming releases.” 5G AS A REVELATION IN PRODUCTION 3GPP looks set to further evolve what it has rather than implementing or developing something brand new in 5G, but right now the broadcast community is very keen on 5G multicast and wants to see it accelerate over the next three years. “That is correct, but for the broadcast community the question is not broadcast, unicast or multicast, but cost. Unicast is not easy to scale, and very expensive if everybody watches on his or her own stream,” says Ratkaj. “In the future everybody will be using 5G networks and we need a one-to-many Mahizer in that

network in order to keep the cost down and keep the quality above a certain minimum.” 5G is a formative infrastructure and it will re-invent connectivity, but the EBU and its public broadcaster membership must surely have experimented with 5G as a production revelation? “We are doing just that, with a lot of exploration. And we have set up a project group around the question of how we can use 5G in content production,” says Ratkaj. “We have not actually completed our own study yet but we have submitted to the 3GPP and it is also looking at the same question. We have identified that the first impact in production will be in newsgathering.” From a technical point of view a single camera/mic link to an agency is a simple use case. “What we have learned is that if you want to have a complex production scenario and use 5G to capture the content this revolves around two situations – a live concert or a live sport event,” says Ratkaj. “For the second you send out a crew with light cameras and rely on connectivity using 5G. If you want a live broadcast the network has to be able to handle multiple audio and video streams in both directions, and we are not there yet with the technology.” There are things 5G cannot do as specified today; involving synchronisation and precision, but 3GPP is trying to formulate the requirements in really dry engineering language before implementing further enablers. “When 5G becomes a reality in equipment in the networks we will see the heavy use in content production probably before we see it in distribution, simply because for delivery you need wide area networks. For production you need local coverage,” says Ratkaj. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN INSTANTLY So there will be different deployment models, with people sometimes wanting to use their own 5G networks in preference to having a mobile network operator involved? Arcidiacono believes there will be lots of areas where it would not make economical sense to deploy the

“The automotive market is looking into 5G and 5G broadcasting for service proposals. This is one area where it could happen fast.” ANTONIO ARCIDIACONO

TVBEUROPE APRIL 2019 | 11


FEATURE

“We need 5G for throughput and latency.” DARKO RATKAJ

5G networks. He explains: “There will still be cases for 4G, and for satellite news gathering. It is a combination of the different systems rather than a pure 5G solution. As Darko was underlying with event production, you will not go through the public network over mobile operators. It will be more like a closed user group using the 5G standard and its frequencies.” Referencing the marketing hype that said 5G will arrive quickly and everywhere, he adds: “This is not going to happen instantly. Even in the long term I do not expect that outside of cities there will be big penetration in terms of 5G broadband in regional infrastructures, because it is not economically sustainable.” Next up Arcidiacono considers viewer distribution done in Unicast using any cellular approach with 5G. “This is very difficult to imagine for on one side the physical reasons and on the other side economical reasons. A combination of the two is very difficult to make compatible. If you wished to cover large areas you have to put in a large number of base stations, multiple more than used for 4G.” Any Unicast basis would see a nation like Germany or France requiring hundreds of thousands of base stations and maybe millions to hit 98 per cent of the population. “You end up fighting against the laws of physics. The solution we have proposed and are working on now is much wider in potential. You combine an orchestrated network layer, which is the broadband cellular layer, w w w. t e d i a l . c o m

and then you build an overlay which is what we call 5G broadcast, and from high towers you can cover large areas in terms of kilometres,” says Arcidiacono. “The investment is much reduced and the advantage for the telcos is big because they will not need to dimension their networks, and if you want to go into the sea and into the air you can add another 5G layer at the satellite level. This will give you the full 100 per cent coverage of a territory. “What we are not considering in all the discussions about 5G is the fact that yes we have population, but yes we have to cover territories,” he adds. ANY FOLLOW UP TO 5G-XCAST? Before 5G impacts hugely on the industry, it may have switched entirely to an Opex mentality and be looking for better faster services from 5G, but how far are we along that road? “Opex thinking is happening but more in production than distribution. The whole industry is moving towards IP solutions because they give flexibility and the potential for doing more with the same budgets, but very few broadcasters have yet managed to move completely to IP. At the moment everyone is sort of riding two horses,” says Ratkaj. Arcidiacono proposed the DVB IP standard back in 1995, but even he says, “In the IP world there is not a perfect solution for everything.” 5G-Xcast has taken on a wider life since Barcelona in terms of what it previews, so are there any possibilities of

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FEATURE

follow up projects that may extend the values exposed? “We have made a proposal to the European Commission to that end but it transpires that within the current horizon of the 2020 programme there would be no follow up to 5G-Xcast,” says Ratkaj. “But there are several ‘calls’ from the Commission that potentially can pick up on one or another aspect that 5G-Xcast elaborates upon. So we have made a proposal outside of this context to look at all the enablers that would go along the lines (of the 5G layers) mentioned by Antonio.” The EBU had a meeting in Brussels about these extra enablers, alongside Commission staff and companies from the eco-system. Arcidiacono adds: “This is work in progress, and Horizon Europe is intending to invest something in the order of €200 billion in R&D over six or seven years from 2021/2. What we are there to say is help the media and culture industry to deliver solutions that are useful to the citizen. The Commission is interested in what we are proposing, but this is a process, not something said and done,” he adds.

PICTURED LEFT The EBU’s X-cast demo

MANY MOVING PARTS In an earlier discussion about 5G-Xcast, the notion that vendors will eventually have chip sets was raised, so how big is the gap between 5G multicast and vendors seeing a market? “Honestly I do not know. We have talked to Qualcomm, and if you ordered a million chips today you would get them in a couple of months. But the market has not moved, which is the Qualcomm assessment,” says Ratkaj. “When broadcast is wanting this, the mobile network operators are wanting this kind of service, and the network equipment manufacturers are wanting to enable this, the chip sets will arrive. There are so many moving parts, but I cannot tell you if it is two or three years,” admits Ratkaj. Arcidiacono adds: “This is just one element of the value chain. We need to have a set of players from the media markets, and people producing content. It is what we are building together with our members, to offer the market services available on 5G broadcast. “You will see more and more of this happening, and to give a tangible example, the first transmitter (in Munich) is already transmitting what exists today as the specification for 5G broadcasting, and Rohde & Schwarz is building that equipment,” he adds. “More transmitters will be testing 5G broadcast, and our role is conveying big live event content that will familiarise the audience to this kind of facility with the advantage of better quality. What people are buying is the media, not a piece of hardware.” n

TVBEUROPE APRIL 2019 | 13


FEATURE

A MARRIAGE OF TWO ENGINEERING-FOCUSED, ENGINEERING-LED COMPANIES Jenny Priestley talks to Rohde & Schwarz and Pixel Power about their recent merger and what that means for the future of both companies

I “We are now able to take bolder steps in the market and to significantly grow our market share over the coming years.” JAMES GILBERT

n November 2018, Rohde & Schwarz somewhat surprised the industry when it announced the acquisition of Cambridge-based graphics, automation, master control and playout company Pixel Power. Back then, Pixel Power told TVBEurope, “there’s no change, but everything changes”, but six months on does that mantra still stand? According to Cornelius Heinemann, VP of transmitter and amplifier systems and file-based media solutions, Rohde & Schwarz, yes it does: “We chose Pixel Power because we felt it was a nice fit, particularly in the nature of the business,” he explains. “It was a familyowned, privately financed engineering type company which was important to us in terms of a cultural fit. It was also a perfect fit as an extension of our product portfolio. “As you know, in Hanover we have a base dedicated to storage and we also have video servers for the broadcast market, and so the Pixel Power portfolio perfectly expands our portfolio towards playout content distribution. There is almost no overlap.” The initial contact from Rohde & Schwarz began as an interest in Pixel Power providing a graphics plug-in for their video server. What began as an engineering-type discussion developed further as the two sides began to see that the philosophy and the fit between the companies worked. “We also recognised around the same time that with a playout-type product we were getting access to much larger opportunities but I think sometimes we were held back from those because of our size,” explains James Gilbert, CEO and founder of Pixel Power. “We were a small company and people are always nervous about what happens in the long-term future when working with a small company, even if they have the best technology, the best products, and the people that they trust to deliver a project,” Gilbert continues. “We saw that Rohde & Schwarz could provide a very similar philosophy,

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they could provide the scale that would enable us to go after larger projects and to fully realise the potential of the technology we’ve developed.” With that in mind, what do Heinemann and Gilbert think Pixel Power offers Rohde & Schwarz that it didn’t have before? “From my perspective, in terms of the technology we are providing software defined integrated playout, filebased content creation and delivery, and an automation system and workflow management to automate those processes,” says Gilbert. “We’re also providing expertise in graphics which has been our core strength for 30 years. “These are all things that were not already part of the Rohde & Schwarz portfolio. In addition, we have good knowledge of that particular part of the broadcast playout market, we’ve been in that market for a long time, whereas the FBMS division of R&S has been perhaps more in the production area. So we have very complimentary market knowledge and sales penetration in those areas.” Heinemann agrees with Gilbert: “When we first began discussing the acquisition, Rohde & Schwarz was taking a small step forward from the production side of the business towards content delivery. We’ve found out that this market is growing and changing dramatically. The technical change from the traditional playout set up towards the software defined set up had already started, customers were beginning to show interest. “From my perspective, we would have been rather late with an organic development and so this acquisition offered us a perfect opportunity to accelerate our move towards this market,” he continues. “This in combination with a brand new product, a brand new platform, and the possibility of developing a common platform across both companies was really exciting to us.” Obviously one of the big questions around acquisitions involving technology vendors is will each side look to


FEATURE PICTURED LEFT James Gilbert PICTURED RIGHT Cornelius Heinemann

integrate the others’ tech into their products? According to Heinemann, the two companies are still in the early phases of the acquisition in terms of the technology. “Nevertheless, mid-term I’m very sure it will be a giveand-take,” he continues. “Pixel Power brings a really nice platform into the mix in terms of playout and Rohde & Schwarz brings a lot of knowledge regarding premium content creation - UHD processing, HDR processing, and the IMF package to provide content to service providers. We have already started talking on the R&D level, the first workshops have been happening and it’s looking really promising and really exciting for the future.” As stated at the beginning of this article, the acquisition took place less than six months ago. When asked how the team in Cambridge have found the first few months Gilbert says he feels it’s been a very good experience so far: “We spent quite a lot of time before we actually completed the transaction doing business planning together so that we knew in advance what the plan was for the next few years and how the integration would proceed. “I think the integration is on track and there have been no surprises. We’ve had a very positive reaction from all the staff in Cambridge and they see the acquisition as giving them more career opportunity in the future. It’s a very positive feeling within Pixel Power and everything is playing out exactly as we expected it to. We still have to keep that process going but also keep our focus on our customers and growing the sales opportunities in our pipeline.” That’s the reaction from within the company, but how has the market and both companies’ customers taken to the news? “I personally called many of our customers to let them know about the acquisition before it was publicly announced and had a very positive response to it,” says Gilbert. “Obviously, in these types of situations customers are concerned about losing their key contacts for service

and support, they’re also concerned about maybe products being discontinued; and whilst those may be features of other acquisitions, they are certainly not characteristics of the merger of Rohde & Schwarz and Pixel Power. “Our customers see it as a very good fit, no product overlap, a stronger company behind us, which will give them even more confidence in placing current and future business with Pixel Power.” Heinemann adds that Rohde & Schwarz’s customers have also viewed the acquisition as a strong commitment to the market. “Rohde & Schwarz is very much known for test and measurement, and in the broadcast environment for transmitters, but not previously for what we call a filebased media solution. So customers are really happy to see us investing further in playout and content delivery.” Finally, with the positive reaction both internally and externally, how do Gilbert and Heinemann view the future for both companies? “We are lucky to see ourselves in a growing market environment,” says Heinemann. “The playout market is changing to a software defined approach. That’s just starting, so we have a really nice product in place. We see lots of opportunities and our main task at the moment is to manage this type of growth. Mid-term we see good opportunities to work together in R&D to profit in file-based media and playout products and it’s really an exciting position.” Gilbert agrees the future is exciting: “We are now able to take bolder steps in the market and to significantly grow our market share over the coming years,” he explains. “I think we see even beyond playout the growth in non-linear television, VoD, and the gradual transition from linear channels to on-demand, and I think the technologies that the two companies have can be combined in a very successful way for that next big change in the way consumers want to take the content.” n

“The possibility of developing a common platform across both companies was really exciting to us.” CORNELIUS HEINEMANN

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FEATURE

WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS

It’s that time of year again when the media technology industry heads to the Nevada desert. TVBEurope catches up with NAB president Gordon Smith to find out what this year’s attendees can expect from NAB Show.

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FEATURE How does this year’s NAB Show differ from 2018? We are always looking for new ways to educate and inspire NAB Show participants and attendees who are driving innovation and propelling the industry forward. This year, the show floor will feature four new exhibit areas that focus on advancements in AI, Cloud capabilities, next-generation wireless technologies, esports and autonomous vehicles. Likewise, our conference programmes are focused on some of the most important issues impacting the business, from next-gen TV and 5G to podcasting and streaming. How would you describe NAB to someone who’s never been to the show before? NAB Show is the ultimate marketplace for those who create, manage, deliver and monetise content for an array of platforms. With nearly 100,000 attendees, 1,700 exhibiting companies and more than 500 conference sessions, NAB Show is the world’s largest convention encompassing the evolution of media, entertainment and technology. It’s a B2B event offering practical business solutions and the latest technology from leading companies and brands. It also generates an extraordinary amount of commerce for the industry. The theme this year is ‘every story starts here’ what does that mean exactly? Creating quality audio and video content is truly modern-day storytelling, and all that powers the art, science and business of this type of storytelling is found at NAB Show. On a personal level, NAB Show also offers career enhancement with hands-on training and networking opportunities. What do you think will be the big themes of the show this year? The challenges and opportunities surrounding next-gen TV and the continued shift to IP will be top of mind on the TV side. More broadly, I expect there will be a lot of announcements and discussion around in-vehicle entertainment, new applications for AI and machine learning, the impact of 5G, opportunities in streaming and ways to monetise new content streams, like podcasting and esports. How do you balance a show that attracts both traditional broadcasters, streamers, vendors and technologists? The NAB Show tent has expanded due to the convergence of these various sectors. The event reflects the evolving nature of the media business driven by advances in technology and changing consumer behaviour. NAB Show is committed to

providing a comprehensive forum in which industry professionals can examine and leverage the impact of this convergence. How can NAB continue to entice visitors and exhibitors from Europe? Last year you saw an overall attendance drop of 10 per cent, how do you combat that? World events, economics and industry-specific forces cause variances in trade show attendance year to year. NAB Show remains the world’s largest and most important event for the global content development community, drawing participation from more than 150 countries. We offer numerous registration packages as well as programmes and services tailored specifically to our international attendees and exhibitors. How many exhibitors are you expecting at this year’s show? NAB Show will host more than 1,700 exhibiting companies from all around the globe. Of note, NAB Show consistently attracts more than 200 first-time exhibitors annually, which is a testament to the organic nature of the event and its place of prominence within the global media marketplace. How do you think the NAB attendee and exhibitor experience differs from other international trade shows? NAB Show offers a global perspective on the industry vs. regional events that are more narrowly focused. At the same time, NAB Show combines all the benefits of a large-scale trade show with the more tailored opportunities commonplace with smaller industry events. Attendees can learn from leading industry experts during marquee sessions as well as ask questions and have candid discussions in intimate, more targeted programmes and networking events. Exhibitors have direct access to customers, and this year will have the ability to conduct more business than ever directly on the exhibit floor through our new “Show and Sell” programme. Finally, you just announced a date shift for 2020. Can you explain the reasoning behind that? We think the change delivers the best value for exhibitors and attendees, whose input drove our decision. Now folks can attend NAB Show outside of the busy work week. The new schedule also aligns well with our existing education programmes, while total exhibit floor hours remain essentially the same – just shifted. n

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FEATURE

EXPERIENCE! ENJOY THE ESPORTS

t of esports experience as par NAB is introducing a new this year’s show. and tures exhibits, a theatre The interactive area fea online st late the ng ing showcasi educational programm s. gie olo hn tec ry ive del t ten gaming trends and con overall sessions looking at the The experience includes rights, dia me ing lud inc ics h top landscape of esports, wit ment. n and consumer engage streaming, monetisatio in a live t par e tak can e experienc Visitors to the esports or ms tea erving professional gaming component, obs es. playing along themselv in stage on this year’s NAB ma Esports is also featuring ion: lut Evo s ort Esp e el titled Th on 10th April with a pan s and nd tre Panelists will discuss What’s Next in Gaming? ators. cre t ten con and g both players technologies impactin nder of fou and er gam nal sio fes Participants include pro Renegades tal1ty’ Wendel; Detroit ReadyUp Johnathan ‘Fa mortals, Im O, CE al, Seg i Ar ayeh; co-owner Chris Roum chief ng mi Ga and compLexity LA Valiant and MIBR; media officer Cam Kelly. Hall. is situated in the North The esports experience

LYNX TECHNIK UNVEILS WORLD’S FIRST ‘FRAME BY FRAME’ HDR TO SDR CONVERTER LYNX Technik is to introduce HDR Evie, an enhanced video image engine powered by the greenMachine multipurpose processing platform. HDR Evie is the world’s first system to use advanced algorithms to automatically analyse and apply optimal corrections in real time on a frame by frame basis, enabling HDR to SDR conversions for sport or live broadcast events. The tool is powered by the award-winning greenMachine titan platform, a compact self-contained AV processing appliance equipped with integrated frame synchronisation, up/down cross conversion and a suite of audio processing capabilities. HDR Evie supports single channel 12G SDI 4K/UHD conversions or can be configured as a four-channel device for 3G (HD) applications. 4K Quad 2SI inputs and optional 12G fibre I/O connectivity makes it compatible with almost any system. A wide array of conversion possibilities are supported, including 4K HDR to 4K SDR, 4K HDR to HD SDR and even conversion between HDR standards. NAB booth N2827.

GATESAIR ASCENDS

annel audiox Ascent, a scalable, multich GatesAir will unveil Intraple over-IP transport solution. king standard and AoIP networ Compliant with both AES67 rs a direct offe ent Asc te), Dan and ire+ solutions (Ravenna, LiveW ital and analogue connection to traditional dig audio interfaces. factors: a 1RU Ascent is available in two form physical for s ion opt le rab figu con h server, wit nly e-o war soft a and AES67 channels; and container. sed uali virt a in s rate ope t solution tha

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S67, 32 audio channels (AES3, AE Both versions support up to ver-IP io-o aud x le with most Intraple analogue) and are interoperab allation inst s line am stre form sport plat codecs. The Cloud-based tran ecs and cod e arat g the need for many sep and management by removin ents. auxiliary hardware compon asters, ver-IP networking for broadc In an industry-first in audio-o re secu ny ma e nag ma to Ascent allows users a centralised on s am stre T) (SR rt spo reliable tran platform. NAB booth N3303.


FEATURE QLIGENT’S VISION

PIXIT MEDIA ROLLS PLATFORM

AGE

OUT SCALE-OUT STOR

sion of PixStor 5, the latest ver Pixit Media will launch . rm tfo a-driven storage pla its leading scale-out dat e ativ cre for s ancement PixStor 5 provides enh and 4K and 8K workflows ing loy dep s ent nm iro env NTP s, ow rkfl n of Cloud wo offers greater integratio and rch sea ed anc enh and vices accredited security ser analytics capabilities. ivers le-out NAS platform del The enterprise-class sca es typ all t performance for guaranteed 99 per cen global namespace across gle sin a and ow of workfl ud. m on-prem to the Clo fro s, multiple storage tier s., Bro r rne nts as Wa Deployed by such clie elogic, e, Picture Shop and Pix lux De vy, En re, sto me Fra for ard nd sta to the de fac PixStor is fast becoming and distributors. rs ato cre t ten con g leadin e secure container lud inc es tur PixStor 5 fea ibility, enhanced flex ow ser vices, Cloud workfl nular analytics, gra p dee and search capability h rapidly changing wit e p pac enabling clients to kee ess requirements. technologies and busin

Qligent is launching a new Cloud-based solution to monitor the quality of viewer engagement and protect media brand value across multiple delivery platforms. Vision Analytics employs data mining, machine learning, and predictive data analytics to help users quickly address quality issues and take corrective action. The solution samples video content globally across any content distribution channel and monitors the viewer’s quality of experience on any platform, network, channel, or app at any given moment. It’s then able to give broadcasters, MVPDs and other content owners an assessment of the health of their media operations, ranging from broad visibility to granular, in-depth reporting. As well as monitoring network performance in realtime, the solution uses machine learning to warn users about a possible incident that could be detrimental to the broadcaster or service provider’s brand. “A broadcaster or MVPD can take corrective action to prevent quality of experience issues when armed with a rich data toolset that delivers insight into real-time performance and trends,” said Ted Korte, CTO, Qligent. “Vision Analytics puts the power back in the hands of our customers. These problems can be prevented from happening in the first place when it’s made clear that trouble is brewing.” NAB booth N4215.

NAB booth SL5724.

SIGNIANT JETS IN WI

TH NEW SAAS SOLUTIO

N Signiant is launching Jet, a new software as a servic e solution, aimed at making it easier to move large files around the wo rld. The solution, titled Signia nt Jet, is targeted at simple “lights-out” use cases, and is designed to replace scripted FTP wit ha faster, more reliable and more secure alternative. Jet utilises a proprietary transport protocol that optimises network performance for fast, reliable movement of larg e files under all network conditions. “Jet fills a growing need in the industry,” said

Cory Bialowas, SVP pro duct management at Sig niant. “With Media Shuttle, Sig niant has demonstrated that SaaS innovation can bring the power of our technology to companies of all sizes. As customers face increasin g pressure to eliminate FT P and unwieldy first-generation acceleratio n products, they have bee n clamouring for a Media Shuttle companion product to handle automated transfers. Jet extends our SaaS platform to address these use cases within the global media supply chain.” NAB booth SL10216.

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FEATURE

5G: THE G TO END ALL GS?

BT is uniquely placed to offer insight into the arrival of 5G. As the owner of both mobile operator EE and broadcaster BT Sport, it’s at the forefront of testing the new technology ahead of its expected release. Jenny Priestley speaks to Gavin Jones, MD for mobile, media and broadcast at BT, and BT Sport’s Jamie Hindhaugh about their recent use cases PICTURED ABOVE: Jamie Hindhaugh (left)

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5

G has been a topic of conversation within both the telco and broadcast industries for two to three years, but it’s in recent months that the telco operators have been announcing their plans to launch services later this year. As excitement builds ahead of the launch, Gavin Jones, managing director for mobile, media and broadcast divisions at BT, says we shouldn’t get too ahead of ourselves: “The first thing I would say is that 4G was

launched in 2013 and it probably took us until 2017/early 2018 to get ubiquitous coverage and a generic service across the UK. 5G is not going to be an instant arrival across all of the UK. “When we went from 3G to 4G it wasn’t that much of a technical change, it was really about more speed and other things changing,” he continues. “The actual shape of the networks and what we were trying to do wasn’t


FEATURE revolutionary one G over the other. As you get to 5G, some of the things we’ve got to do to bring out the benefits are pretty revolutionary from a network perspective. So what you’re going to see is a slow roll-out as we really start to rebuild the networks and cater for the new services that are required.” There are two main elements that will make up 5G according to Jones: enhanced mobile broadband and ultralow latency reliable communications. Enhanced mobile broadband will be particularly key for consumers as they will see a significant increase in the speed of their device. “At the moment, depending on where you’re standing, you can probably get up to 140-200 megabits across your device,” explains Jones. “With 5G and enhanced mobile broadband you’re going to have up to a gigabit, which suddenly means you can start transmitting in a one-way direction things like HD, so the quality of the content that you’re sending out is going to be much higher. With the increase in quality and devices, for example the folding phones that debuted at MWC, everything is bigger, better and faster.” “The second bit, which is probably the really important bit for broadcast, is called ultra-low latency reliable communications,” adds Jones. “What that means is that instead of just downloading, you’re getting two-way transmission with the agreed latencies, so it starts to become relevant for broadcast and the really valuable stuff such as live transmissions. All of a sudden, you have a whole range of different options that you can start to do. When you have that, you’ve got better reliability, better security, using slicing you can knock-up these networks to use all of the media applications in microseconds.” As mentioned above, the main use of 5G up to this point has been for use cases, where the telcos and broadcasters are able to demonstrate how a 5G-enabled world will work. Jones cites the example of a royal birth. When Prince Louis was born, the street in Paddington was crowded with 3040 vans, cables everywhere, microwave dishes, journalists and members of the public. “With 5G, all of a sudden what we would call ad-hoc nomad broadcast becomes a lot smaller, a lot easier and a lot better. All of a sudden you’ll have people with far more compact devices, vans, cars etc,” he explains. “If you extrapolate that out and think about onlocation filming for sport or concerts, all of a sudden you start getting a whole load of new applications. With the speed that 5G offers you also get the ability to work with different types of things, so for the Tour de France, motorcycles, for drones used in stadiums for football, for on-board use for things like Grands Prix, the quality you can get is much better.” “If you’re also doing a remote production it allows you to have that real-time latency to guarantee that service which

PICTURED LEFT: Gavin Jones

is difficult at the moment. There are lots of things you can look at from newsgathering, motor racing, football, from people filming series and sending files back everyday, 5G allows you to do that in real time. That’s the theoretical concept bit,” he laughs. In reality, the spectrum that the airwaves use for 5G is a much higher frequency than the current spectrum.That means that the cells used by the telcos are going to have to get denser, which is going to lead to the rise of small cells. “This is why the full implementation of 5G is going to take time, because they’re going to be on lampposts, they’re going to be on CCTV columns, we’ve actually got a few hundred on the top of telephone boxes in London,” says Jones. “They do the really heavy duty data that you need at street level as bandwidth grows and grows. There’s quite a lot of building that all of the operators need to do to actually get there. I would say that the investment cycle on that started probably a year or so ago and you can see the momentum really building. We’re at the start of a journey.” “In terms of small cells, we are the market leader, we have hundreds of them deployed,” says Jones. “We’re hoping that we will be at the forefront of innovation and the forefront of delivering it. To give you some of idea of the scale, there’s about 40-50,000 masts in the UK and that still gives us 85 per cent population coverage, but we’ve got to move to geographic coverage.” EE and BT Sport have been particularly busy showcasing the opportunities 5G offers for broadcasters. At the end of 2018, they conducted a world first when they joined forces to enable a 5G production workflow for the EE Wembley Cup. According to Jamie Hindhaugh, chief operating officer at BT Sport, 5G offers broadcasters another option over 4G and fibre: “5G brings you the best out of all of that. It’s the slicing aspect that gives you that guaranteed bandwidth, or the term I always use ‘virtual fibre’. As a broadcaster, it gives you the opportunity to mix and match. “So for instance, if I’m filming on location and want to send rushes back, I currently send them over 4G. Probably the best use example I can give is when I worked for the BBC and we covered the Olympic Torch Relay for London 2012. We broadcast live on the red button and that was

“With 5G, all of a sudden what we would call ad-hoc nomad broadcast becomes a lot smaller, a lot easier and a lot better.” GAVIN JONES

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FEATURE done using 4G bonding,” continues Hindhaugh. “5G replaces that need for bonding, it gives you that guaranteed line. What I like about it is the mix and match, if there’s fibre in a football ground for example then we’ll use fibre. But 5G will take away the discussion when as a broadcaster you’re looking at the football fixtures and selecting games. Sometimes your first question is ‘what connectivity have they got?’. In the future you won’t need to do that. The conversation will instead be about which is the best game to cover editorially.” Hindhaugh goes on to cite an example of how 5G will enable broadcasters, particularly those working in sport, to communicate with their viewers: “With 5G at a stadium you have the bandwidth capability for the audience to be able to upload video, to be able to send messages. Currently if you’re at a game with an 80,000 crowd that’s nigh on impossible. “A great example of that would be the recent Champions League game between Manchester United and PSG that had a fantastic end to it when there was VAR going on. As a viewer, if you’re sitting in the stadium and you can go into the BT Sport app and look at the VAR analysis while the decision is being made, it’s really quite exciting,” enthuses Hinhaugh. “It opens up that further opportunity to engage with audiences in another way. It’s so exciting because it’s about enhancing our creativity and enhancing our ambition to take people to the heart of sport. You couldn’t have aimed for better theatre in terms of that match. Who wouldn’t be excited by what 5G’s going to bring to the equation?” “Being a broadcaster within a telco with the ambition and expertise that is within BT, for me to even think about doing 5G remote production we have that expertise to tap into, to understand what it means, how we do it,” says Hindhaugh. “But more importantly it’s brilliant for my other broadcast partners because we’re developing use cases that BT can then bring to others. “Our industry is very collaborative. When BT Sport first did 4K we helped other broadcasters understand how we did that because it works for all of us if there is more content in 4K. So for me to have that expertise internally, that helps me talk about things I don’t really understand in a very articulate way, and to enable us to do stuff like we did at Wembley, is phenomenal.” Unsurprisingly Jones is also full of praise for Hindhaugh and his team at BT Sport: “The benefits of having Jamie and his team is that we were probably quite connectivity-led. BT Sport gives us someone on the inside to work with and develop things with. The fact that BT Sport is at the front of new technologies, I think the future for us is really exciting. All of this helps with our thinking in terms of insight and actual capability.” Finally, the US president recently tweeted he wanted

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5G GOES TO THE BAFTAS

EE trialled 5G at this year’s British Academy Film Awards, using it to power the world’s first AI fashion stylist. The telco used the low latency and high bandwidth of the 5G network, combined with stateof-the-art holographic technology, to bring Shudu, a digital supermodel who had previously only ever interacted over Instagram, to life on the red carpet as the world’s first AI stylist. Shudu captured the A-listers’ outfits using the Google Pixel 3 and shared these shots with viewers at home via an innovative new online chatbot. She also offered styling advice to film and fashion fans across the UK – using AI to learn fan’s preferences and recommend affordable versions of the looks, live from the red carpet. The company has worked with the British Academy Film Awards for over 20 years and aims to set itself a challenge every year to use its technology to bring film fans closer to the action on the night. This year, the introduction of 5G created an opportunity to put the qualities of this network to the test and create a brand new experience for both guests attending the ceremony and those watching at home. Over 100,000 people used the 5G-powered AI stylist to shop the looks from the awards, far exceeding their targets.. The latency of the network was consistently at around 15ms, which meant that Shudu was interacting in “perfect real-time” with celebrities on the red carpet.

to see the implementation of 6G “as soon as possible.” In reality, how soon does Jones think the sixth generation could arrive? “5G is supposed to be the G that ends Gs,” he laughs. “There’s no point having a new G until you have the uses cases or the demand to actually get there. It’s going to take us a number of years to really develop the use cases for 6G and all four of the operators in the UK have got to be able to monetise it because this is a pretty expensive business. They’re going to have to buy more spectrum at the next auctions from Ofcom. So I think they’re probably all praying that 6G is as far away as possible at the moment!” n


FEATURE

MWC: UNDERLINING THE IMPORTANCE OF SERVICES TO DRIVE CONNECTIVITY TVBEurope sends technology, media and telco analyst Paolo Pescatore to Barcelona to report back on the key trends from MWC

T

he annual gathering in Barcelona at the end of February highlighted the significant change sweeping through the telco industry. This was further underlined by the organisers who have rebranded the event as MWC (previously Mobile World Congress). For sure, 5G was a prominent theme throughout the conference sessions and on the show floor. Arguably other topics attracted more interest such as edge computing and foldable devices. But it is clear that the arrival of 5G will have a profound and significant impact on the telco industry’s networks and verticals. The realisation of one smarter converged network is coming to fruition. Over the last few years, 5G has been touted as the next big thing and at this year’s event it was finally here. There are now live networks around the world with subscribers generating data traffic. Numerous telcos have announced plans to launch later this year. More importantly, handset providers are announcing 5G devices. This includes LG, OPPO, Samsung, Xiaomi, and ZTE among others. Moving forward, expect to see more flagship devices to support 5G variants. For now, a notable exemption is Apple which represents an opportunity for others to steal a march. Qualcomm was the big winner from MWC given that the chipset manufacturer is at the heart of this 5G bandwagon. This was evident on the company’s stand with numerous partners showcasing 5G devices. Fundamentally, 5G is rolling out far more quickly than 4G did, thanks largely to Qualcomm which has been working closely with key players in the entire value chain. It is unclear whether consumers need or will notice the difference with 5G. With this in mind it will be hard for telcos to ask users to pay a premium for a service that will be faster but not widely available. Unsurprisingly telcos

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FEATURE

are targeting 5G at enterprises and specific verticals. The media industry is one that can hugely benefit from the new technology. Telefonica was showcasing TV remote production over 5G; akin to BT Sport’s coverage of the Wembley Cup. Also, the Spanish telco has equipped FC Barcelona’s stadium with 5G connectivity. Content and media industries should be excited with the arrival of 5G which will enable new experiences for consumers. Noticeably, there were a plethora of content and media demonstrations on telco stands to show the power of delivering services over 5G: n Japanese telco NTT DoCoMo showcased a Cloud AR platform over 5G which gave a glimpse to the future of watching live sport. Users can choose any viewing angle and get closer to the action in real time. n Deutsche Telekom claimed to show the world’s first edge computing enhanced mixed reality multiplayer game over 5G in partnership with Niantic Labs, Mobiledgex and Samsung Mobile. n Visitors flocked to a multiplayer Spider-Man VR experience over 5G in collaboration between Nokia, Sony Pictures and Intel. n Telefonica showcased Movistar Riders on 5G using 5G connectivity for esports. These demos highlighted the importance of allowing users to take control of the viewing experience. Keeping

with this theme, Microsoft announced the eagerly anticipated HoloLens 2. The significantly improved mixed reality device includes new features to better interact with holograms (hand and eye tracking). The device will cost $3,500 at launch and is initially targeted at enterprises in light of the demos shown during the Sunday keynote. It is apparent that all of these and future devices connected to the network will generate vast amounts of data. The need to deliver these rich bandwidth hungry applications efficiently in real time will require telcos to deploy edge computing. This in turn brings one of the other benefits of 5G, low latency. Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella along with others pointed towards the edge as one of the most powerful developments in the evolution of mobile networks. In essence, edge computing redefines the way content is cached and distributed, closer to the edge of the network and thus the user. Ultimately this will drive the emergence of new applications and services. Naturally games and video will hugely benefit as well as other bandwidth hungry applications. Foldable devices grabbed a lot of attention; in particular the Huawei Mate X and Samsung’s Galaxy Fold. This new category is providing renewed impetus among handset manufacturers who are struggling to differentiate. While it is early days, content creators should be excited about the potential to engage with users in a different way. Overall, there was a sense of realism among telcos that they need to transform themselves, which in turn will open up new experiences for consumers and businesses. While the promise of 5G allows users to download more content at lightning speeds with low latency, the business model still remains unproven. With this in mind expect a flurry of partnerships with numerous companies across many verticals to realise the vision of 5G. This will involve a smart converged network connecting things driven by voice, powered by AI and the Cloud, and delivered by 5G and fibre. n

PICTURED LEFT: DoCoMo’s Cloud AR platform

PICTURED LEFT: Telefonica’s MWC stand

All images courtesy Paolo Pescatore

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FEATURE

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR CONSUMERS? What does the arrival of 5G mean for the mobile video viewer? And what impact will it have on the media and broadcast industry? TVBEurope talks to Simon Forrest, principal technology analyst, Futuresource Why would people buy 5G handsets now when the speeds won’t be as advertised for another few years? Many people will be seeking to renew contracts with mobile operators, and will be offered new 5G handsets as part of the package. Those on longer term contracts living in urban areas may well elect for 5G, as the technology will be rolled out across major cities worldwide throughout 2019 and 2020, so they could take advantage of it within the lifetime of the handset. Futuresource expects 20 million 5G handsets to ship in 2019, growing to 473 million devices in 2023, which reflects the phased roll out of 5G compatible devices and 5G network services. Nevertheless, telecommunications operators have the opportunity to effectively repurpose existing mobile frequencies to deliver broad coverage of 5G services, albeit at lower speeds. We expect to see 5G delivering speeds of typically 100Mbps across wide areas using those existing frequencies, and around 10 times that in urban areas where the requisite

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mmWave (high frequency) infrastructure is installed to provide the higher gigabit speeds promised by 5G. How soon do you expect to see 5G really coming into its own? There’s no doubt that 5G services are being accelerated in 2019, with handset vendors competing to be the first to boast 5G-enabled smartphones able to take advantage of the new communications technology. Construction of 5G infrastructure will continue in parallel and we anticipate it might be three or four years before the headline speeds promised by 5G can be fully realised across most cities. Meantime the challenges of delivering reliable service to rural areas will mean operators rely instead on repurposing existing frequencies allocated for mobile services before embarking upon upgrades at a later date. It’s a sound strategy which enables them to deliver speeds of several hundreds of megabits across large areas, but the ramification is we may not see widespread 5G coverage


FEATURE reality on smartphones to deliver new experiences beyond sharing simple video clips and photography we see today. Conceivably entertainment providers are likely to harness the capabilities of 5G to deliver UHD TV and video-ondemand services to mobile, although one could argue the screen resolution of smartphones must improve further to justify the investment. Moreover 5G has the propensity to replace traditional broadcast television services, moving us to an all-IP world, although this threat is still several years away. In the professional entertainment sector, broadcasters are experimenting with 5G connectivity in studio cameras for outside broadcasts and to enhance live sports by broadcasting UHD coverage of the game direct to 8K displays inside stadiums. These are trial programmes today but as investment in the technology continues the applications for 5G will expand alongside.

until 2025 at the earliest. How soon do you think cities will start to adopt 5G technology, and where do you think they will be? The USA, China and South Korea already have commercial 5G networks on air, albeit in select areas of major cities. In Europe, Finland is expected to be one of the first countries to launch 5G. The European Union are seeking to harmonise network frequencies later in 2019. Futuresource aren’t predicting blanket gigabit coverage in 2019, given the challenges of optimally siting masts creating the mmWave infrastructure necessary for the headline-grabbing 10Gbps speeds. But operators are using the mid-range 3.5GHz frequencies to deliver a balance of speed and coverage, so handsets will soon be displaying the “5G service” logo even when performance is broadly equivalent to 4G. What impact do you think 5G will have on the media and entertainment industry? The speed and (ultimate) ubiquity of 5G is likely to enable new commercial opportunities for the media and entertainment industry. It’s probable that social media will be quick to harness the advantages of faster speeds, perhaps harnessing opportunity in augmented and mixed

Could 5G supersede IP? Telecommunications providers may elect to use 5G to replace fixed-line broadband services, making a switch from fibre to wireless technology dependent upon the relative costs for the upgrade in infrastructure. If this happens, customers will receive a home router with an integrated 5G modem, plus an antenna that can be mounted in a window or on the roof to receive broadband over the 5G network. The mmWave frequencies do not easily penetrate walls or nearby objects so, inside the home, Wi-Fi will continue to be the favoured technology. It’s a combination of IP and 5G that will deliver this opportunity, and we’re already seeing 5G routers with the latest Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) standard coming to market that can make this option a reality. How excited do you think consumers are about the arrival of 5G? Clearly there are early-adopters that will have tracked the development of 5G; for those, the release of 5G-capable handsets during 2019 will come as no surprise but they may be disappointed with the patchy coverage available during the early phases of deployment. Meanwhile the wider public are generally unaware of 5G because advertising of the new services hasn’t yet happened. This is likely during late 2019 and early 2020 when 5G networks become operational commercially in cities and smartphones boasting the new 5G technology come to market. n

“In Europe, Finland is expected to be one of the first countries to launch 5G.” SIMON FORREST TVBEUROPE APRIL 2019 | 29


PRODUCTION AND POST

COMMERCIALLY VIABLE Philip Stevens explores the world of advertising on TV – and beyond

PICTURED ABOVE: One of Guerillascope’s many advertising campaigns

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t was shortly after 8pm on 22nd September 1955 that the first commercial appeared on British television. Ever since that look at tingling fresh Gibbs SR toothpaste, the genre of television advertising has been a prominent part of the broadcast, and now digital media, world. Just like programme making, commercials have needed to embrace new technologies and techniques in order to keep the audience captivated during those natural (and these days not so natural) breaks. “The role of TV in our lives and thus in the advertising matrix is evolving,” states David Cecil, head of broadcast at London-based Smithfield Agency. “In that evolution it might be possible to write copy that works at fast forward speed as well as normal pace. However, I believe that is a holy grail that might work occasionally, but I doubt it can be done formulaically.”

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So, how does the fact that viewing today often takes place on devices other than a conventional TV affect commercials production? “That folk watch on laptops and mobile phones is a challenge that is not going away any time soon,” admits Cecil. “But we still design our living room furniture around the TV - so it’ll be a while before we need to change our focus on the message working best in widescreen aspect ratios through speakers rather than earphones. However, if we weren’t adapting or changing our approach to TV ad copy, we wouldn’t be around much longer.” SECOND SCREENS Cecil maintains that as people’s viewing changes so does their interaction with what they see. “We know many viewers are dual screening so we can monitor spikes to


PRODUCTION AND POST web traffic around a commercial spot airing. So, of course, we capture that data and study the lessons it contains. That kind of data capture is in its infancy, it will develop and so will the way we use it.” He concludes: “It is an exciting time for TV commercials. Never have they needed to engage as much as now. Indeed, ad-free TV subscriptions are available - so will the viewer be keen to pay to avoid the commercials? On the other hand, can we make commercials of such a high standard that folk will be happy to consume ads that entertain as well as inform?” AN IRISH VIEW Guerillascope is a full-service media and marketing agency which was initially set up in London in 2001. Today, the company employs 20 staff with offices in London and Ireland and has created advertising campaigns for more than 200 clients. What does co-founder and Guerillascope Ireland CEO, Oliver Durkin, see as the major changes in commercial production during the past decade? “Smaller crews and more efficient production and more post production effects have reduced the barrier to entry for many brands as costs have come down. We often edit on set as we

go and have the client see a rough cut before we leave. This significantly increases efficiency in cost and post production. “Also, technology and education has made the production process more democratic. So, although there are still large budget commercials for big brands, there are many more brands on TV. Last year Guerillascope put 41 new brands on television. TV has become more accessible and democratic, and more creative.” Although other forms of advertising have appeared in recent times, Durkin believes that television is still the trusted medium. “TV remains ‘King of the Hill’ in terms of impact and impression. It provides a very different impact from, say, some Instagram influencer endorsing a product. At the end of the day, it depends on the audience and the nature of the creative/brand message.” With viewers frequently choosing to record programmes and then watch them later – with the opportunity to fast forward through ad breaks, what can agencies do to persuade consumers to watch carefully crafted commercials? “This is a myth. People are still exposed to linear commercials. Those fast forward viewers do see commercials in linear play-out, but maybe less than others,” states Durkin.

“That folk watch on laptops and mobile phones is a challenge that is not going away any time soon.” DAVID CECIL

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PRODUCTION AND POST

PICTURED ABOVE: Guerillascope Ireland CEO, Oliver Durkin

INTELLIGENT COLLECTION Alongside changes in production techniques, the way data is collected for successful campaigns has also evolved. For example, Artificial Intelligence is seen as a major development in recent times. “AI is critical to the future of advertising,” asserts Mike Caprio, chief growth officer at Sizmek, the largest independent buy-side advertising platform. “The tonnage of data available to target is too much for buyers, so using AI enables brands and their agencies the ability to quickly identify the patterns and signals that will drive the best ROI. It also helps us to improve the safety and security of the ads we serve to consumers and ensure commercials are not delivered next to inappropriate content or on

suspicious websites as well.” Caprio maintains that approach helps to create a much more personalised advertising world. “Personalisation is a term that has been cited in advertising for years, but until now the capabilities have been limited to consumers’ previous preferences, purchases or searches. Now, thanks to AI, marketers can make real-time decisions on when to reach the right consumer, with the right content, at the right time and on the right platform.” Sizmek believes that TV is shifting the media-buying industry, a process that also works in reverse. “For consumers the definition of ‘TV’ is changing. It used to be the big screen in the living room, but with the delivery of content to devices large and small, people are consuming

“There are less appointments to view now, as the audience has the flexibility to watch what they want, when they want” MARK THATCHER 32 | TVBEUROPE APRIL 2019


PRODUCTION AND POST

“Using AI enables brands and their agencies the ability to quickly identify the patterns and signals that will drive the best ROI.” MIKE CAPRIO ‘TV-like’ experiences everywhere. OTT streaming services are increasingly cannibalising the hours spent viewing for households with, for example, 20 per cent of American households now estimated to be streaming only. This makes the understanding of Linear versus Addressable versus Connected TV from an advertising perspective critical for brands and agencies.” “Addressable TV, using MVPDs (Multichannel Video Programming Distributors), has the ability to target advertising on spot and network cable at the household level to drive more targeted creative and buying. However, Connected TV is the most digital-like experience that offers a more flexible creative canvas. Device targeting is not unlike mobile device targeting, though sometimes the user agent can mask the device type. Most streaming inventory can be bought programmatically through private marketplace, or programmatic guaranteed.” With all that in mind, how does Caprio see the future of data-driven TV? “One of the biggest issues around the future of television has always been who will own the market and more importantly the level of control it affords the suppliers. TV has been a blind auction for many years, where the demand far exceeds the supply. This has enabled the suppliers to package undesirable day parts or programming alongside premium day parts or programming. The customisation that occurs in an upfront media commitment is complex, but the scatter market has always been primed for automation and auction. The sensitivity the industry has felt over digital players, most notably Google, of creating an auction designed to commoditise the nuance of the TV buying process has limited the growth of data driven and automation of the industry.” LONGER FORM While looking at the commercials scene, it would be a mistake to neglect infomercials and direct response television (DRTV). One of the leading production companies in this field is East Anglia-based The Television Business. The company was established by Mark Thatcher in 1990. So, what changes has he seen in production techniques in the last 10 years? “I think the last decade has really seen true multiplatform media convergence for the first time. How we

PICTURED LEFT: Mark Thatcher, founder of The Television Business

consume content has changed dramatically, with streaming options to computers and smartphones as well as TV. We have to be very mindful of how and when our audience accesses our content.” He goes on to say that VoD is probably the most challenging as advertising messages can easily be skipped over. “There are also less appointments to view now, as the audience has the flexibility to watch what they want, when they want. We now are far more mindful that we are not a production house, but a multimedia platform business – and there is no longer a one-fit-suits-all solution.” PARALLELS WITH HIGH STREET Thatcher feels that just as internet shopping has eroded the high street, so it has had a profound effect on DRTV too. This means more than ever, producers need to be more creative and originate more compelling content to hold the attention of viewers for longer and, hopefully, encourage a response. “Digital workflow is a two-sided coin for us. Yes, non-linear editing has made life much easier, but the

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PRODUCTION AND POST PICTURED RIGHT: Mike Caprio, chief growth officer at Sizmek

lack of standardisation of broadcast formats and codecs is somewhat of a minefield. For example, when we create a viewing copy for Clearcast, the codec and specification used is different to when we create a digital transmission copy to upload to Honeycomb/IMD or Adstream. We also still supply content directly to some channels, and many of these have their own particular flavour of codec, and with over 1000 to choose from, it’s not a guessing game that we can win.” DIFFERENT PLATFORMS Viewing on different platforms impacts on the company’s business. “Much of our content finds its way on to YouTube or our client’s own website, so there are many opportunities to embed sales messages and click-throughs at this point,” explains Thatcher. “We have created 16:9 vertical content for digital billboards which clearly has a creative impact on how we produce a multi-platform campaign. We were even once supplied with HD footage shot in portrait mode on an iPhone from one client, who wanted this made into a 16:9 landscape spot. We created a Dallas-like sequence with five vertical portrait shots sliding up and down to fill the landscape widescreen space! It actually did not look too bad. There is always a creative solution to a technical challenge!” Thatcher concludes: “This market has always been a challenging nut to crack, and this has been further exacerbated by the uncertainty of the economy, the erosion of the High Street caused by internet shopping and latterly, Brexit. However, we believe in essence that consumers still like to be sold to. Providing the featured product has a

PICTURED RIGHT: A screen grab from one of the commercials from the Smithfield agency

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wow factor and is demonstrable, then the audience is still out there – but they need to be presented with informing and engaging content. Also, we need to establish our content on several media platforms. We can no longer hitand-hope that we can throw a net out and hook viewers in whilst they are watching TV. We need to be far more proactive than that. That is exactly what we do!” n


PRODUCTION AND POST

ASK NO QUESTIONS, HEAR NO LIES

PICTURED ABOVE: Honda’s Real View Test Drive campaign

Dan Meier meets James Digby-Jones and Ian Clarke from production company Saddington Baynes

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hat’s the best way to work out how someone feels about something, assuming you don’t have access to their diary or the desire to hack their data? Asking them seems like a good place to start, but when it comes to market research, this is far from the best approach. The way questions are framed or the answers interpreted can skew your results. Even in a focus group, respondents might subconsciously shape their answers based on other people’s. Maybe they just don’t like the person asking the questions, or are secretly displeased with the snacks on offer. So how do you conduct market research without asking questions? Production company Saddington Baynes has a solution, and it’s based around the idea of neurocreativity.

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Partnering with a team of neuroscientists, the company developed its ‘Engagement Insights’ service to test non-conscious responses to different images. “We create content for ad agencies, for direct brands, we execute on their ideas,” explains executive creative director James Digby-Jones. “But all throughout that execution you’re making creative choices, using your gut instinct; change the composition, change the colour, the lighting, all these different things - and with the goal of trying to create an emotionally engaging piece of content that’s going to tick the boxes for that brand. They want to be seen a certain way, they want that car to look a certain way.” To evaluate their imagery, the company has deployed online sorting tests based on implicit bias testing,


PRODUCTION AND POST originally designed to study racism in the US police force. By asking respondents to sort words and images as they appear on screen, the tool can assess non-conscious associations according to their reaction times. “While we’re producing content we can actually measure the emotional resonance of it,” says Digby-Jones. “Rather than just use our guts we can actually now validate our gut instinct; we can challenge some creative ideas that get briefed to you to actually find out if an image that’s looking a certain way is going to be seen by the consumer to evoke the attributes of the brand. Does it look premium? Does it come across as trusted? Does it feel high-performance? Our neurocreativity is harnessing the power of neuroscience and neurotesting to fine-tune and optimise the emotional output of the imagery.” Saddington Baynes were able to harness the power of neurocreativity for their award-winning work providing animated films for Honda’s Real View Test Drive campaign, becoming the first production company to receive a Chartered Institute of Marketing Award for the Best Use of Data and Insight. “It was a very effective campaign,” says account manager Ian Clarke. “Prospects spent six times longer interacting with the website, up to 13 and a half minutes, which is pretty impressive. Across five of the main markets between 75 and 95 per cent of viewers watched the animated films in their entirety so it was a really really effective campaign.” The reach of this methodology extends beyond car advertising, ultimately providing creatives with a bank of emotionally resonant imagery at their fingertips. “We’re across five different sectors, from automotive to fragrance, watches, cosmetics,” notes Digby-Jones. “We’re running hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of images through to build up a database. Where we want to find out all the imagery that will evoke ‘premium’ or ‘beauty’, you can look through that database, look at all the imagery that really fires up, really resonates against those attributes - there’s a visual code in there.” Currently the only production company so actively and closely using neurocreativity, the Saddington Baynes team foresee a snowball effect for this innovation. “You’re seeing brands talking about neuromarketing, neurocontent, neuromeasurement, the value of data, really understanding the customer,” says Digby-Jones. “I think it’s going to be driven by the brands, they’re going to want to know that stuff is effective. As soon as they’ve got tools that are

more readily available for them I think it will open up and change the landscape of market research, or it will add another level that brands require or desire. “I think the power of being able to tap into emotional responses is huge,” he continues. “I was reading something the other day about conversations around 5G and how the vast amounts of data created a huge amount of potential for future brands and future device manufacturers to actually be recording very live, very detailed emotional response data while people are interacting on their phones, on their tablets. So I think the potential to really understand what works is huge, I mean the value of that for a brand is incredible.” Does Digby-Jones see this being used outside of advertising? “Storytelling and narrative work is a really interesting idea. Our partners recently worked on some TV scripts, so before any imagery’s been created, or anything’s been acted out, just the content itself, this emotional level, this system one implicit testing can get below the waterline really. “It’s not about data replacing creativity. For us as a company the ability to understand what visual ingredients really drive emotion allows us to know in the area where to play. So we can go and be creative in the right space knowing that we’re going to be as effective as possible.” Ultimately neurocreativity represents an exciting opportunity for achieving a deeper understanding of people’s reactions, as Clarke signs off: “If you really want to know how people feel about what you’re showing them, you don’t ask them.” n

“It’s not about data replacing creativity.” JAMES DIGBY-JONES

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DELIVERING CONTENT FOR MULTIPLE DEVICES Philip Stevens examines alternatives when it comes to CDNs

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hanges in the way that content is consumed by the public - traditional television, mobile, digital and so on – has meant solutions are needed that enable broadcasters to stream to multiple devices and in a diversity of formats in a cost-effective way. Key to the solution are CDNs - Content Delivery Networks – comprising of proxy

servers and data centres in strategic locations. But should those CDNs be operated by the broadcaster, a third party, or a mix of the two? What are the merits of a self-build CDN or a hybrid model? And what about the question of latency? How is low latency achieved? So, what are the pros and cons of the options?

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PRODUCTION AND POST

PICTURED ABOVE: Johan Bolin

PICTURED ABOVE: Kyle Goodwin

THE SELF-BUILD ROUTE

THE HYBRID ROUTE

“A private TV CDN lets TV service operators maintain control over how their valuable content is delivered,” explains Johan Bolin, Edgeware’s chief product and technology officer. Edgeware was founded in Sweden in 2004 and is headquartered in Stockholm. The company develops systems and services that enable customers to build and operate their own delivery networks. Bolin continues: “Our unique technology allows customers to maintain control of their content, scale online services as needed and provides consumers with an outstanding viewing experience. A self-built CDN is optimised for TV so unlike rented space on other CDNs, it’s geared towards high-quality video content and ensures a consistent level of operation.” He says that long-term, renting bandwidth from a CDN service provider is expensive, especially if you need to cope with spikes in traffic. “Building your own TV CDN is more cost-efficient and it provides a level of flexibility

“A hybrid CDN falls between using an 100 per cent outsourced CDN and having a fully ownedand-operated CDN, so typically, a combination of public and private infrastructure,” explains Kyle Goodwin, Concurrent Technology’s VP of product and innovation. Concurrent Technology is a Vecima Company and a global player in media delivery and storage solutions for content owners, broadcasters and service providers. He continues: “The Public CDN path can provide reach and redundancy. Depending on the scale of the OTT service, this is also possible with flexible Private Cache models. However, a hybrid CDN provides a new way for content providers to achieve significant cost control for OTT delivery, by employing the tried and trusted approach of combining public and private infrastructure to optimise cost.” Goodwin says it is important to note that a Hybrid CDN is not a giant technological leap forwards for broadcasters or OTT operators. It is a relatively simple operational model change that brings significant benefits with the right investment. Concurrent’s analysis shows that a Hybrid CDN model has 30 to 50 per cent lower total cost of ownership than a 100 per cent Public CDN alternative. “Looking longer-term we need to imagine what this means when OTT audience sizes double, triple, and quadruple. According

“Building your own TV CDN is more cost-efficient.” JOHAN BOLIN

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PRODUCTION AND POST that would be unavailable or too expensive to get using a commercial CDN service. TV CDN operators can also access data on user behaviour which provides valuable insight for them to continually improve services.” REVEALING RESEARCH Edgeware commissioned market research from Frost & Sullivan that looked into the costs of building and operating a private TV CDN compared to that of renting capacity within a commercial CDN. This paper presented a business case for TV CDNs and found that many operators who serve a well-defined geography and have a growing number of viewers watching every day will find that the self-built option can pay for itself within a matter of months of operation. That sounds like good news, but how much work is required by the broadcaster? “The level of involvement from customers is obviously higher than simply renting space on a CDN, but it means users can customise deployment for a much more built-to-suit infrastructure. They’re able to choose how and when to deploy hardware and software.” In January, Edgeware acquired subtitling supplier Cavena Image Products. Bolin says the acquisition expands the capability of Edgeware’s offerings. “We already have common customers that have integrated Edgeware and Cavena technologies together so it makes sense for us to embrace and further develop this common solution.” This solution also operates with an innovative range of new advertising options, allowing companies to offer targeted ads to display during the programme. It uses Edgeware’s client-side ad insertion technology, integrated with customer profiles from Google, to insert a U-shape banner around the show while it continues to play. It also allows advertisers to display personalised ads in the pause/play bar, as well as personalising and adapting the ads played during time-shifted shows. Bolin says Edgeware technology creates glitchfree viewing that enables users to experience synchronised, high-quality video, audio and subtitles without any annoying delays. And that last point raises the question of latency. “That can occur in several parts of the delivery network. Our solutions are engineered to minimise any delay, no matter where in the delivery process they are. For live, we think of latency in terms of how close to a traditional

“Hybrid CDN is the way forward for broadcasters in need of cost-optimised OTT delivery.” KYLE GOODWIN to a Cisco report, this is likely to be three to four years away. But what about five to ten years from now when the broadcast spectrum is likely reduced, telco and mobile networks have improved, and IP-connected devices are the norm? The economics are clear: Hybrid CDN is the way forward for broadcasters in need of costoptimised OTT delivery. But it is also required to achieve broadcast-quality viewing experiences.” SIGNIFICANT SHIFT Goodwin believes that broadcasting is in the midst of a seismic shift as it feels the full impact of IP and mobile technologies. Although Video on Demand is currently the dominant form of consumption and represents 90 per cent of traffic, live content is growing as audiences for major events switch to OTT with improved mobile viewing experiences. He maintains that one of the challenges facing broadcasters is that of monetising OTT video content. “Through a CDN they can deliver targeted ads on live linear OTT feeds for sports and news. Of course, this can be challenging, especially from scalability, accuracy, and user experience viewpoints. However, server-side ad insertion has emerged as a viable alternative for creating targeted advertising on multiscreen devices. Under this particular workflow, the ad insertion process is pushed upstream.” WHEN LIVE IS NOT LIVE However, that viewer experience is not helped when there are problems with latency. “Companies, especially those within the media and entertainment space, are well aware of the dangers of not implementing a CDN to support the flow and delivery of their content,” sates Goodwin. “The perfect example is to look at what happened with the FIFA World Cup last year. People in pubs and homes were simultaneously watching TV and online feeds. The online feed was often delayed to the point where people

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PRODUCTION AND POST broadcast an internet-delivered stream is delivered.” LOOKING AT LATENCY Bolin continues that Edgeware did some research – as well as some extensive maths – to ascertain how long it takes a tweet to go from inception to being read on a timeline. The result was 13 seconds. “We deemed that as a good benchmark of latency because if you’re watching an online stream of a sporting event, and it’s lagging behind the broadcast, you can have the game spoilt by a text message or a tweet. Even since then, technology has improved, eliminating the difference between broadcast and online – and therefore stopping social media spoilers from happening. More sports OTT services exist now than ever so this is an important consideration for operators.” Bolin concludes: “It is important that we keep always in mind the growth of personalised programming for consumers – namely through dynamic ad insertion. This is a solution that’s garnered a lot of attention since its launch and we’re seeing lots of interest from TV service providers who want to take the personalisation of their services to the next level. Edgeware is one of very few vendors who offer dynamic ad insertion when delivering live programming to Android devices.” n

“A private TV CDN lets TV service operators maintain control over how their valuable content is delivered.” JOHAN BOLIN

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“A hybrid CDN provides a new way for content providers to achieve significant cost control for OTT delivery, by combining public and private infrastructure to optimise cost.” KYLE GOODWIN watching TV celebrated a goal as much as 10 seconds before it was seen online. The culprits? Poorly managed end-to-end CDN infrastructure and an overload of viewer requests burdening the network.” So, what does Goodwin think can be done with regards the latency problem? “Low latency is typically described as the time required to transmit a packet across a network. We know that there is an OTT customer experience dilemma facing broadcasters, which is primarily that ‘Live OTT does not mean live’. IP network bottlenecks and delays, client and player latencies, and the ‘retry model’ for IP delivery all create customer experience differences when compared with the traditional Over the Air experience. In addition, the difficulty of synchronising signals between devices is a step backwards from the OTA experience. As the viewing of live OTT content grows, this problem becomes more serious.” Goodwin goes on: “As far as what is working within the industry and what we actually mean by current standards of low latency, I’m not sure there’s anything working particularly well yet. Anything below eight seconds is flaky at best. I think it is kind of wide open as to what is going to fill that gap. We have our ideas, others have theirs. There hasn’t been a convergence in the market as to what is going to solve that problem.” So, does that suggest that no latency is possible? “Not sure about no latency, but there’s a lot of buzz and positive signs around at the moment using WebRTC, as a protocol rather than joint segmented HTTP delivery,” maintains Goodwin. “As far as next-gen goes, HTTP/3, which was previously called QUIC - a Google project - is going to allow for more control over the actual delivery of content. Right now, the way that traditional set top boxes operate is they work on streaming rather than on segmentation. So, if it’s a continuous video stream they don’t have to worry about segmenting it or going to multiple bitrates. There’s a potential that with HTTP/3 that could be available again to OTT providers throwing it over an unmanaged network like the open internet. This could allow them to return to streaming, rather than segmenting the video, and that could potentially be a game changer in both latency and reliability of delivery. It’s very early days, I don’t know of any commercial deployments, I don’t think there’s any providers talking about this at the moment, but this is certainly a focus of research for us at Concurrent.” n


PRODUCTION AND POST

A ZIVA MOMENT Ziva Dynamics co-CEO James Jacobs discusses Ziva VFX Academic, the advanced character simulation software now available for students What makes Ziva a good tool for students? One of the consequences of living in a golden era of digital media is that audiences have extremely high standards for visual effects. With every technological leap, expectations grow, which presents a challenge for professional artists and students who want to tell visually compelling stories. Ziva VFX offers a new way to simulate characters, guided by anatomy and real-world physics. This method was developed by Sci-Tech Academy Award-winning VFX pioneers, and as such, it removes time-intensive steps from the creation process and helps artists of all levels achieve more lifelike results. Why make it available for students? What benefit does it bring to the company? Ziva VFX is quickly becoming the industry standard for character work in visual effects studios around the world. We believe it is important for students to master

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the same tools as the industry professionals so that they can enter the job market with a competitive edge. Many of our studio customers have also expressed a keen interest in hiring Ziva simulation specialists for their creature teams. To what extent will students trained on Ziva be prepared for work in the industry? We believe that students should learn all of the most relevant and common character creation theories/ practices so that they can easily adapt to fit the needs of the studios. That said, many studios are seeking creature creators that specialise in Ziva, so students trained in our software will be more marketable after graduation. They’ll also be prepared to complete the entire simulation process as Ziva VFX can handle this through Maya, without depending on any other tool sets. This empowers students with more control and authority over their work.


PRODUCTION AND POST Meanwhile, Ziva VFX tools are often used in conjunction with other rigging strategies. For example, some studios have developed their own proprietary muscle rigging systems, so they will leverage Ziva’s volume preservation capabilities for the skin and fat passes only. For this reason, we encourage students to have a wide breadth of character creation skills. How does this differ from other VFX packages? Is it easy to learn? Ziva VFX is currently the only commercially available simulation solution that specialises in the character creation process. The all-in-one software plugin includes the industry’s leading FEM physics solver, which empowers creators to achieve the most accurate, fast and reliable secondary animation results, like organic skin stretching, fat jiggling and muscle firing, for characters of all complexities. This approach removes all of the artisan guesswork and time-consuming workarounds from the character creation process, allowing artists to quickly learn the tools and achieve the highest-quality out-of-thebox results. Will it be available for students in Europe? Absolutely. All Ziva licences are available internationally. What is tissue simulation and why is it so important? Essentially, simulation allows you to replicate the materiality of any soft-tissue, like muscles, fat and skin, and build entire characters with those inputs. Thanks to the advanced physics solver in Ziva technology, the simulated tissue will move, jiggle, flex and stretch exactly as it would in real life. One of the things we’ve found is that audiences can tell when something looks off, even if they don’t know what it is. When character tissue behaves as it should, you add an entirely new level of realism to a design. And when artists can get there faster, you free them to up to spend more time on the other details that make more extraordinary 3D characters. Will students be able to use the software to play with previous Ziva content such as Venom? With a Ziva VFX Academic Licence, students get the same tool our studios use (i.e. the same tool used on Venom) and will be able to use Ziva VFX software however they like, for non-commercial projects. Movie assets aren’t made available as they are the property of the studios, but we have created a community section designed for shareable content, which is growing every day, and numerous free assets to help our users get started. How do you attract new people into VFX?

PICTURED LEFT: Hollywood films that have used Ziva’s tools

The VFX industry is naturally enticing for any art, film, game or media enthusiast. We’ve found that many students become more interested in specialising in characters after seeing and testing Ziva technology. Could the programme be taken any further? Could internships be offered off the back of it? Absolutely. Ziva software is extremely flexible and can be used in so many ways – on anatomical characters, feature animation characters and even inanimate objects. We expect to see internship programmes starting at many of the big studios. We’ve already heard of a number of contributors to our community who have since moved on to exciting jobs at leading VFX houses and creative studios. Many of the post-secondary academic institutions are adopting Ziva VFX into their curriculums, so there are always new, exciting ways for aspiring artists to deep dive into the tech. How do you see the programme being employed in the future in terms of small-screen/non-film content? Ziva VFX is already being used on small-screen productions. Just this year, Mackevision used Ziva VFX to simulate a pig character for the non-profit organisation, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The character was then nominated for the Outstanding Animal in a Commercial 2019 Visual Effect Society Award. There are numerous commercial and indie project characters being powered by Ziva every single day. n

“We believe it is important for students to master the same tools as the industry professionals so that they can enter the job market with a competitive edge.” JAMES JACOBS

TVBEUROPE APRIL 2019 | 45


GORILLA’S GROWTH

MD Richard Moss explains how the Cardiff post facility attracts the industry’s best talent with a flexible, multifaceted approach

PICTURED ABOVE: Traitors

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rom its beginnings as a tight-knit team of selfprofessed ‘old-school editors,’ Cardiff-based Gorilla Group has flourished into a full-service post production facility, growing not only in resource and talent but also offering an incredibly wide range of technical systems. Celebrating its 20th year, Gorilla is now the largest post house in Wales, delivering a wealth of specialist and factual daytime programming, VFX and animation projects, including Doctor Who (BBC Worldwide), One Born Every Minute and Kiri (Channel 4). “It’s always been our policy to work in collaboration with the big post houses and high-profile freelancers, and when we bring in talent for a specific project, it’s important that we’re able to offer the same standard and quality of tools that they are already familiar with,” begins Richard Moss, Gorilla’s founder and MD. Gorilla’s most recent expansion is a new grading suite running DaVinci Resolve Studio, which adds in support for HDR mastering and Interoperable Master Format (IMF) delivery. Moss explains that the system was initially built to deliver post on Traitors, a six-part episodic drama starring Keeley Hawkes, graded in Wales at Gorilla by Goldcrest Post’s Jet Omoshebi: “Not only were we delivering in UHD for Netflix for the first time, but Traitors was also our first time working in Dolby

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Vision HDR. It’s a complicated beast if you aren’t familiar with it and so we worked closely with Jigsaw24 to build a robust system.” That system features a dual boot, HP Z8 workstation, running DaVinci Resolve on Linux and Media Composer on Windows, alongside an external crate featuring three NVIDIA Titan V 12GB graphics cards, 12 SSD slots for local storage and 40GB Ethernet. The suite relies on Sony BVM-X300 and Dolby PRM 4200 reference monitors, with the DI on Traitors utilising a Resolve Advanced Panel. “By using the biggest GPUs we could get our hands on, adding expansion ports and plenty of SSD capacity, we knew it would be powerful enough for future needs; we also used it for our IMF delivery, so it’s now become an important tool in our workflow,” explains Moss. With Netflix completing subtitling and re-voicing for the international deliverables, all of the servicing files Gorilla supplied to Netflix, up until the point of mastering, had to be ProRes. “Interestingly, it is the Resolve dongle with the Advanced Panel that makes a ProRes export possible if you aren’t running on Mac hardware,” says Moss. “Exporting both UHD HDR and SDR ProRes 4444 XQ files was very simple.” The fact that DaVinci Resolve features a full nonlinear editor (NLE) alongside its grading toolset was a significant factor. “The idea of being able to finish in one piece of


PRODUCTION AND POST software was a major factor in our decision to implement Resolve. As a former Avid DS user, doing everything in one box is something that appeals, especially for high-end episodic drama where turnaround is tight.” “We first had to produce a Dolby Vision pass for Netflix, and then an SDR trim for Channel 4, where the series was premiering,” Moss continues. “Channel 4 has ad breaks, whereas Netflix required uninterrupted video. On top of that, we had international deliveries to handle, as well as both graded and ungraded archival masters. Throughout the DI we had to drop in VFX shots as they were supplied. “Typically we’d have run a finishing tool and colour corrector in parallel to handle everything; however, we managed to negate all of that by staying in Resolve for the entire process. “It was a steep learning curve to deliver through the IMF workflow, but we took a lot of advice from Netflix’s colour science team, who also wanted a full ACEs workflow,” says Moss. “DaVinci Resolve is what enabled us to bring it all together. It was quite a complex project including Dolby CMU and Colorfront’s Transkoder for IMF, but it all worked well. “Workflow is crucial for us with lots of the other work

we do. When you’re doing 60 episodes of something, you have to apply common sense and find the most practical solution. More and more of the talent coming through our doors knows Resolve, which only made our decision to implement it that bit easier,” concludes Moss. n

PICTURED ABOVE: Gorilla’s DaVinci set up

TVBEUROPE APRIL 2019 | 47


TECHNOLOGY

A FACE ODYSSEY Richard Welsh tells Dan Meier about Sundog Media Toolkit’s work with AI

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rthur C. Clarke’s vision for 2001 may have been slightly premature, but given the rapid development of AI and machine learning tools, it’s surely a matter of time before robots are plowing our fields, writing our movies or managing our football teams. That said, RoboKlopp might still be some way off, as Sundog Media Toolkit CEO Richard Welsh reassures: “AI in the traditional kind of HAL or Terminator sense, we’re a long way from that truthfully. With my futurist hat on, I don’t see artificial general intelligence on the near horizon, so something that’s self-aware or something that can solve arbitrary problems through AI.” However, there are all manner of manual tasks in the film and TV production workflow that are already being automated using AI. “They may not even be very high-value tasks, ie. your operator cost is not the big issue; the problem is the time,” Welsh explains. “So if it’s taking a day or a week to do something when really it’s kind of laborious, non-creative, every production wants that week back if they can get it.” I, ROTOSCOPE To this end, Sundog has developed the DubSafe tool, a Cloud-based rotoscoping AI designed for content versioning security. “We had several customers talk to us about a particular use case where they do rotoscoping and masking of a movie or TV show for the pre-release dubbing copy - so this goes to the voice artists, the sound remixing and foreign language remixing stages, the translators, the subtitlers - and there’s a large team of people that have to touch that content, so to protect the high-security or the particularly sensitive content they do this rotoscoping where they put masks around the faces.” Even at the hands of a skilled operator, this manual process can take up a week of valuable post production time. “There’ll be someone in the post production team who basically sits there for the week and masks out all the faces; they have to go and find all the places where there’s dialogue,” says Welsh. “The other thing is it’s not always actual dialogue, it could be things like breaths, like gutteral noises if it’s a fight.” This means dialogue detection tools are of limited use, hence Sundog’s work in this area. “We built an AI specifically to do the masking automatically; it does do face detection but it does a lot more than that,” notes Welsh. “We found face detection was an interesting challenge because off-the-shelf face detection is really built off large catalogues of still-frame images pretty much off the internet, and these

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are things like people’s holiday snaps and stuff on their phone and selfies and that sort of thing. When actually movies and TV don’t look like that. They’re not framed that way, the lighting is not the way it is in snapshots. So we found that building our own face detection and training it specifically on that type of content is way more successful that just trying to use off-the-shelf face detection.” The other issue with off-the-shelf face detection is that faces might not even look like faces in the traditional sense. “You might get an alien or an animal or a car, or something that’s got a ‘face’, so again being able to train on those different things is really important because in movies that’s pretty common,” says Welsh. “We use different methodologies of object detection, motion tracking and so on, because once we’ve got a face we then need to track it for the whole shot, so the first thing we do is go through and cut up the movie or TV show into shots (we have a scene detect we built ourselves). We then look for a face at any point during each shot.” Sundog’s object detection system can then track a face for the entire shot, even if the character turns


TECHNOLOGY

away so their face cannot be seen. What does this mean for studios? “They can make a decision to contextually mask out the content for security but do it in such a way that’s sympathetic to the dubbing artist requirement to be able to see the performance and have the context of what’s happening on screen, but still have the security masking,” Welsh explains. “And now that they’re able to do the masking effectively heavier or lighter depending on the sensitivity of the content, they’re now interested in looking at this for all of the content, because then they get that protection all the time, but they don’t take any time out of their process - whereas if a particular production was requiring that they did this security masking, they had no choice but to spend that week doing it. Now they’re only taking a morning as they can do it on everything. And the cost is reduced for them - time is the main deal, they want that time back. “It’s an on-demand Cloud service so from a cost point of view it does scale from a very small user to a very large enterprise customer,” Welsh continues. “With this specific use case it is definitely something that right now is really the preserve of the big studios, the big broadcasters, simply because they’re the ones who are protecting their content to that level - and it costs them next to nothing compared to the production budget.” ENRICHING, PROLONGING AND PERSONALISING CONTENT As well as protecting this content, SunDog’s use of IMF (Interoperable Master Format - as opposed to International Monetary Fund or Impossible Missions Force) can prolong its shelf life. “We had tape not so long ago and film moving around before that, and now we’re in a file-based world, but even those files have a lifespan in terms of the support for the codex and formats,” says Welsh. “IMF is very much a long-term archival and master format, the idea being that actually as opposed to something that goes on the shelf and effectively goes stale… with IMF you actually enrich it over time. “That IMF copy you have on the shelf (or in the Cloud probably), you can keep adding more and more to it, because it supports all these auxiliary tracks and metadata and the ability to segment and marker it really to a fine granularity,” he adds. “I see that format allowing you to make that content more and more valuable over its lifespan by adding more in to it as you go.” One implication for segmenting IMF files is the ability to personalise and tailor content based on individual viewing habits. Where TV shows would once have played out once a week, for example, streaming services allow us to watch a series in 10-15 minute chunks on our commutes. “What I can see coming pretty quickly actually is the ability

to identify plot break points and marker them in IMF or segment them so that you can say, well if someone is on a 10-minute commute and they want to watch a 10-minute episode, I actually want them to watch up to 9 minutes 45 because that’s a great point in the story to stop. Secondly the markers could identify the main plot points from the previous episode and do a mini recap that’s tailored specifically to you and your viewing experience. “I think those types of audience interaction with the content creation is going to be really powerful,” he continues. “It’s going to make it a way more compelling experience, but it fits around the real growing demand for effectively customised, personalised content. It’s the same show you watch as everyone else but you’re seeing it in a way that’s personalised to your viewing habits or your lifestyle.” RISE OF THE MACHINES In terms of AI’s role in production, this is really the tip of the iceberg, as Welsh predicts: “I can see it reaching through every part of the production. In the near future I think it’s very much going to be solving these narrow tasks; a little bit longer term I think we will see it starting to be more of an assist. There have already been experiments in doing creative processes, like for instance cutting trailers and that kind of thing from content using fully AI-driven automation. I think that’s a little bit further off, and I do wonder how receptive people will be to that type of way of working, not actually having people tell the story.” On the other hand, no AI worth its digital salt would allow its work to betray its artificiality. This is a troubling proposition for society at large, for instance the AI-driven ability to swap faces and voices. “Some of this stuff is pretty scary to be perfectly honest,” Welsh remarks. “But what is interesting is that still, even the better technology out there has a little bit of an element of the uncanny valley about it, where it doesn’t quite work. I do worry that we’re getting to a point where it’s going to be very difficult for us to know the validity of what we see, because it would be so possible to make something that looks real but absolutely did not happen - so people say things they did not say, and it will be compelling stuff. I think that’s something that we need to be aware of as a society frankly.” Fortunately that’s still some way down the line, and for now Welsh considers AI something to be embraced by the creative community, as it frees up time to actually be creative: “I think there are a lot of questions over this, but we’ve seen it throughout history that automation and mechanisation and technology initially look like a threat to people’s jobs but realistically what happens is it frees them up to do other things. So again it’s an opportunity.” He adds: “There is a slightly further reaching implication of AI because it is replacing our brains, the thinking component of our lives which has been something that up until now mechanisation doesn’t really do; it makes up for our physical frailties let’s say, whereas this is going to be something very different. But it’s going to be interesting in the next few years and decades I would say.” That means journalists won’t be replaced by machines just yet, although once it happens you probably won’t be able to notice. Beep. n

TVBEUROPE APRIL 2019 | 49


TECHNOLOGY

WHAT HAS 5G EVER DONE FOR US? Dan Meier asks the BBC about their 5G development work

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ver the past 10 years, the BBC’s online distribution has surged thanks to the growth of iPlayer and, more recently, BBC Sounds. BBC senior distribution manager David Hemingway warns that existing OTT distribution could become unaffordable if all of the broadcaster’s content distribution was to go online: “Broadcast networks have a fixed cost and they cost the same whether everyone around the country’s watching or nobody’s watching; but for online distribution the costs go up with the audience size. Also of course, video is a very large part of the traffic on the internet and if we offloaded all our video content, all our video distribution online, the internet would struggle if not break completely. So there has to be an organic growth of internet capability that matches the growth in our traffic that travels online.” That’s why the BBC has set up a series of projects exploring how to make the transition to IP “attractive and affordable” for both the BBC and its audience. One key area of technical development is 5G, with the BBC joining the 5G Rural First consortium to see how the next-gen network can benefit rural areas. “Traditionally networks don’t have good coverage in rural areas,” explains principal engineer Chris Nokes. “There’s a strong feeling that there’s significant potential for a number of different use cases in these rural areas, specifically around farming and applications relating to fishing and things, which could benefit significantly from 5G technology - particularly in the Internet of Things style applications for 5G.” A 5G trial in Orkney, Scotland, was therefore designed to test broadcasting of live radio, as well as catch-up and podcasts, on the island of Stronsay. “Stronsay is an island of about 300 people and at the moment it has essentially little or no mobile coverage, and the fixed internet connection is not fantastic either, both in terms of speed and in terms of reliability,” says lead research engineer Andrew Murphy. “Also Stronsay doesn’t have very strong digital radio coverage at the moment. So it seemed like a good location to try and demonstrate some of the benefits of using 4G and 5G technology to deliver radio to people.” Working alongside Orkney Islands Council, the BBC R&D team installed a base station and the necessary broadcast equipment to deliver 13 live radio broadcast streams, including all the BBC’s national digital radio stations and the digital-only stations, as well as BBC Radio Scotland and BBC Radio Orkney. “We’re also giving people access to local and mobile internet as well so they

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can benefit from on-demand,” adds Murphy. “We’ve installed this base station at Stronsay High School, which conveniently is right in the centre of the island at almost its highest point. That seemed a good choice because the school is the centre of the community both metaphorically and in this case physically as well, which is good from a coverage perspective.” Broadcast-enabled Android smartphones were given to 20 individuals to listen to the radio via a special 5G radio app, which the team can monitor to test the coverage and technical capabilities. “What we’re intending to do - and we’re just finishing the development of it - is to include the 4G/5G broadcast technology in the normal BBC Sounds app, so there will be a special version of the BBC Sounds app that we will make available when the trial ends. So that really is bringing the broadcast, catch-up and podcasts all together on 4G and 5G technology on the smartphone on one easyto-use application.” The internet connection was provided by local ISP Cloudnet, which plans to take over aspects of the technology at the end of the trial, as Murphy explains: “We were keen when starting this project to make sure that after the trial’s over there’s some benefit left over for the people on Stronsay, so Cloudnet have indicated that now that the infrastructure’s in, they now actually have a point of presence on Stronsay, and that can allow them to offer fixed wireless internet access to homes after the trial has finished.” So are there any trials in the pipeline to test TV broadcasting in remote areas? “That’s something we’re certainly interested in and it’s certainly something we’re exploring,” says Murphy. “One of the things we’re thinking about is around driverless cars in the future; people aren’t having to drive and look where they’re going, so driverless cars open up new opportunities for people to consume video or live video as they’re moving around, and obviously that would in turn have quite an impact on what the network would need to do to supply that demand. So we are thinking about those sorts of things but we haven’t got any concrete plans at the moment.” Another area where the BBC is testing 5G is in the immersive and interactive arm of the R&D wing, including its involvement in the government’s 5G Smart Tourism project. “The BBC’s been involved in looking at things like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), really quite radically new kinds of experiences, and we’ve been doing that at a low level for some time,” reveals Graham Thomas,


TECHNOLOGY

head of immersive and interactive content, BBC R&D. “But one of the challenges is that those sorts of things tend to require very high bandwidth delivery because you’re delivering really rich video or potentially 3D models or other kinds of data, so they’ve been tied really to what you could do at home or in a place where you’ve got a very high bandwidth network available.” For VR and AR applications then, 5G offers exciting possibilities. “Imagine perhaps enhancing a programme about the history of a particular part of the country where there are experiences that you could go and experience in those places; see battles recreated on the battlefield that they happened on or something like that,” suggests Thomas. “So when the opportunity to be involved in the 5G Smart Tourism project came up, we thought that was an excellent opportunity to try out some of those things, because although the project itself is focused more generally on applications around tourism, clearly there’s a big overlap between experiences that tourists might want to have and things that we might want to deliver for educational or entertainment purposes on location.” As part of the project, the BBC teamed up with the Roman Baths in Bath to provide an AR experience enabling visitors to look through their phone and see the site as it looked at various points in history; a ‘magic window’ paradigm. “We focused on the idea of creating a window back in time,” explains Thomas. “We’ve worked with Aardman Animation who’ve made three really beautiful, detailed models of the Baths at three different points in history. “So we developed an app on a mobile phone that would stream

initially high-bandwidth 360 video rendered from these models designed to be viewed at different points in the Baths,” he continues. “We did some trials of that during a few evening events at the Roman Baths last December, so we had members of the public coming round and trying the application out. We were logging both technical usage data like how long it took the videos to launch and the latency over network, and we also did some user studies, asking people whether they would be more likely to visit a tourist or historical site if it had that sort of thing available.” The feedback was positive and the team is now trialling a second version of the application using a remote rendering approach. “That’s making use of another feature of 5G rather than just the high bandwidth; the fact that it can support very low-latency communication, and also that you can have compute resources in or fairly close to the edge nodes in a network,” says Thomas. “So what we’re doing is rendering these models in real time on a set of servers at Bristol University, receiving position orientation data from the users’ handsets, rendering the model frame by frame, and sending it back over the network with the latency sufficiently low that you don’t really notice it when you’re moving the device around.” “That can let us deliver a richer experience,” he adds. “People can actually walk around the Baths and you can change the viewpoint where the model is rendered from. So that will let us explore those other aspects that 5G could offer and look to see how those benefits are perceived by end users, and how we could learn lessons for things that we could develop in the future.” n

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DATA CENTRE

FIVE SERVICES BEHIND 89 PER CENT OF TOTAL SUBSCRIPTION STREAMING REVENUES IN EUROPE By Michail Chandakas, associate research analyst at Kagan, S&P Global Market Intelligence

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ver the past few years, online video services in Europe have experienced rapid growth, particularly those that follow the subscription revenue model. Global players such as Netflix, Amazon and HBO went direct-to-consumer, disrupting the previous long-term relationship between subscribers and multichannel operators. Soon after Netflix began showing signs of success in North America and Western Europe, pan-European satellite operator Sky ICT PCL launched its own standalone online video service in the UK, combining on-demand content with live streaming TV networks in 2012. Others followed, such as CANAL+ Group with Canalplay in France and Telecom Italia with TIMVision in Italy. Traditional broadcasters with declining viewing numbers — due to the intense competition from digital players — are looking to explore partnerships and collaborate to produce international content as well as co-develop new streaming platforms. France Télévisions Publicité and RAI Italia extended their alliance to co-produce high-end projects to include Germany’s ZDF, Spain’s RTVE, Belgium’s RTBF and VRT, and Switzerland’s RTS. Similarly, in the UK, the BBC and ITV have joined forces to launch a subscription video-ondemand service. Currently, five services, namely Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Sky, Viaplay and HBO, account for 89 per cent of the $6 billion in consumer spending attributed to subscription online video services. In terms of active paid subscriptions, the top five services

TVBEUROPE APRIL 2019 | 53


DATA CENTRE

represent about 84 per cent of the total market, as of the end of 2018. It is no coincidence that Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are the two services with the widest market presence, as they are active in all 18 countries included in our analysis. HBO, Sky and Viaplay are following a more regional approach, operating in a handful of select markets. At the end of 2016, Netflix had already launched in the majority of European markets with plans to localise in certain countries where it expected the service to become popular, such as in Poland and Turkey. Since then, its quarterly growth has been about nine per cent on average, with net additions slowly increasing. A price increase in select countries in October 2017 had no notable effect on its growth. Amazon Prime Video, on the other hand, expanded globally in December 2016. Prior to that, the bulk of its subscribers in Europe came from the UK and Germany. Its expansion resulted in double-digit subscription growth for the first five quarters, from the first quarter of 2017 to the first quarter of 2018, and declined shortly after. n

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9000

Profile for Future PLC

TVB Europe 63 April 2019  

Get ready, coz here is come - 5G

TVB Europe 63 April 2019  

Get ready, coz here is come - 5G