Intelligence for the media & entertainment industry
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A WORLD OF SPORT
s I write this, speculation over the future of sports broadcasting, and in particular broadcast rights for the Premier League, is rife. The next round of Premier League rights are out to tender right now (with proposals due to be submitted in March) and Amazon is strongly rumoured to be planning to dip its toes into the market, bidding on at least one of the packages up for auction. If the streamer does win out, football viewing as we know it will change dramatically. Of course, as we know, the production and delivery of sport is likely to stay the same whoever wins the rights. I mention this because 2018 is set to be a huge year for live sport. From the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang to the Commonwealth Games and this summer’s FIFA World Cup, there will be plenty to keep the most ardent of fan glued to their TV, smartphone and tablet. And certainly plenty to keep everyone working within the broadcast industry busy for most of the year. So on that note, this month we hear from Eurosport who will be delivering Winter Olympic coverage across Europe on every device possible.
Telecommunications companies play a key part in delivering that sporting content to viewers across the continent. Broadcasters have always used key services from telcos, be it mobile telecommunications networks or the cloud, telcos are an important part of what the industry does. And the telecom companies are starting to understand what TV can do for them. More and more are realising that including TV in their services is an important driver to increasing subscriber numbers. This month, we hear from both TalkTalk in the UK and Orange in France who have both expanded their reach within their respective TV markets in recent months. Other highlights this month include James Groves’ chat with the sound supervisor for the world’s biggest TV show, Game of Thrones; George Jarrett speaks to TVT CEO Ian Brotherston about how their recent acquisition of AMC’s Digital Media Centre is driving change within the company; and with BVE just around the corner, event manager Daniel Sacchelli reveals what delegates can expect from this year’s programme.
JENNY PRIESTLEY, EDITOR
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TVBE FEBRUARY 2018 | 3
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IN THIS ISSUE
FEBRUARY 2018 16 BVE
Events manager Daniel Sacchelli talks about evolving BVE 2018 ahead of its launch this month
18 TalkTalk TV TalkTalk TV managing director Will Ennett speaks to Jenny Priestley regarding its place in the pay-TV market
21 PyeongChang 2018 James Groves chats to Eurosport CEO Peter Hutton following the broadcaster’s return to the Olympics
TVT acquired AMC’s Digital Media Centre in July 2017. George Jarrett meets CEO Ian Brotherston to find out how the acquisition is driving change within the company
32 AIMS Following AIMS’ merger with the MNA in December, chair Mike Cronk talks education and value for money
36 Game of Thrones Production sound mixer Daniel Crowley reflects on audience engagement and clean dialogue with everyone’s favourite epic fantasy
40 Cherryduck In December, Cherryduck opened The Nest, a brand new creative hub. James Groves speaks to managing director James Vellacott regarding the launch, and plans for the future
42 Great Art
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Jenny Priestley talks to Seventh Art Productions executive producer Phil Grabsky about how technology has helped bring films from the cinema to the small screen
OPINION AND ANALYSIS
The secret to true live sport streaming experiences By Filippa Hasselström, director of strategic alliances and product marketing, Net Insight
TT platforms are becoming increasingly important for live sport events. However, many content owners and broadcasters find themselves battling technical challenges. As research shows, highlighted by Limelight Networks, rebuffering and overall poor quality are two of the most frustrating aspects for consumers. For live events, re-buffering is especially frustrating because latency excludes the OTT audience from online conversations. Due to latency issues, OTT viewers can fall minutes behind live broadcasts. Viewers will also be out of sync with each other, and the longer they watch the more out of sync they will be, due to the introduced drift. Some streaming providers address the problem by reducing the chunk size. This is a method that reduces the latency but also lowers reliability and overall QoE. As HTTP streaming was designed for VoD workflows and not for live services, it takes a lot to force a behaviour that doesn’t introduce latency. UDP-based streaming is another option. Designed for live, with no buffering, it provides the possibility to deliver a few seconds of latency. For a UDP-based solution to be robust in best effort internet conditions, a reliable UDP is required to handle lost packets. UDP also comes with other benefits. It does not degrade throughput (video quality) with distance as HTTP/TCP does. Longer distance and less distributed streaming is therefore possible, requiring less infrastructure given sufficient network I/O. Taking control over the latency, regardless of method, will give service providers the opportunity to provide everyone with the same experience at the same time - regardless of what viewing device they’re on.
For live sports synchronisation is also key to offering a premium user experience. This is driven by the fact that the role social media is playing in consumers’ lives is significantly increasing. Moreover, many consumers are using social channels to communicate about their media consumption, including the programmes they’re watching on TV, especially for live sports. Most importantly, viewers don’t want to get a notification of a goal from their Twitter feed before they see the goal on their screen. Implementing a solution that solves both latency and sync will guarantee a flawless, true live experience on the OTT platform. It will unite the broadcast and OTT viewers, making sure that they can continue to share their experience on all social platforms. It will also open up new immersive experiences, where the second screen can act as an extension of the first. NEW REVENUE STREAMS With ad fatigue being a growing problem on the OTT platforms, exploration of other options to monetise the second screen have become important. Addressing latency and sync issues opens opportunities for ingame betting, voting, polling and other applications that require sync to be successful. An audience that is completely in sync also has the potential to open up possibilities to use the second screen to provide complementary content, such as player/driver cams, additional camera angles, or 360-degree formats. Looking at the progress that has been made in 2017, OTT streaming solutions that enable true live sport TV experiences are already available today. 2018 will be the year when we see them in action. n
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OPINION AND ANALYSIS
How to secure content in the age of super hacks By Bill Thompson, storage product manager, EditShare
ile-based workflows, distributed collaboration, cloud-based production and IP replacement of coax and SDI have delivered on their promises to make M&E content production more agile and efficient. However, these mechanisms have also significantly expanded threat surfaces available to cybercriminals. A variety of layers of protection have already been adopted in the M&E space. Application servers, media processing systems, asset management systems and media storage are typically protected from external threats by firewall solutions. LDAP-based user permissions and network policy management systems like Active Directory are being deployed to implement “least permissions” access to critical assets. Encryption and watermarking technologies have been leveraged to prevent or detect piracy or other misuse of media assets. In spite of these measures, cybersecurity threats continue to grow. And, as evidenced by recent high profile incidents impacting Sony Pictures, HBO Studios and Netflix, better security practices are needed to protect critical media assets and intellectual property. While many of the current security layers focus on blocking physical, internal and external access to critical media access, file auditing solutions focus on answering “Who did what to which files and when did they do it?” This capability can enable facility managers to determine the cause of unexpected file changes, for example. File auditing solutions are often tightly linked with specific systems. The presence of a strong file auditing capability can also be a significant deterrent to internal threats. Through both initial and follow-up training for any activities exposed through the audit process, employees quickly gain an appreciation for the file auditing capability. It is easy to imagine that in a modern production or post production facility there will be
dozens of systems (firewalls, authentication servers, VPN gateways, workstations, storage and application servers) generating large volumes of file audit log data. This tsunami of file audit data presents a number of new challenges to system and facility managers. Storing file audit log content for a year or more is a unique challenge. At the system level, storing audit files insitu consumes system resources (disk space, RAM, power, cooling) that might better be used for the native functions of the system in question. Clearly, the MPAA recognised this challenge by requiring that file audit log data be collected and stored in a central repository rather than in each individual system. Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solutions provide you with two important weapons in the war against cyber threats. These systems provide centralised collection of file audit log data as well as log data from switches, routers, firewalls and other elements of the IT infrastructure. They also normalise the data so that it can be stored efficiently. This enables you to efficiently store audit data should it be required for forensic purposes. SIEM systems also provide the capability to look across individual files and correlate events to more precisely identify specific events and threats. Once detected, SIEM systems are capable of notifying responsible parties so that an immediate response can be mounted. A layered security solution is one of the best ways to protect the growing threat surface in a modern video production facility from today’s cybercriminal. While many of the existing legacy layers focus on erecting (imperfect) barriers to access to critical media assets, recent developments in file auditing capabilities promise to protect against internal and external threats by tracking “Who did what to which files and when did they do it?”. n
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OPINION AND ANALYSIS
Flying high: next-generation MAM in the cloud By Nigel Booth, EVP business development and marketing, IPV
roadcasters and production houses, even enterprises and sports organisations, are all part of the explosion of content. In order to maximise their return on investment from content production, companies and organisations need to be able to easily manage and find video, audio, graphics, effects, edits and all associated work-in-progress files. To do this, organisations have moved away from managing a collection of single assets to deploying complete creative service workflows to manage entire complex productions. The definition of a MAM system has also changed in line with this shift in how production companies are now working. They’re now scalable and flexible and can reduce local storage costs, make content discoverable and enable high-performing search, collaboration and editing processes. At the same time, the wider deployment of cloud technologies means content production can increasingly embrace the next evolution of asset management systems. Cloud-enabled MAMs are configurable networks of powerful services that fully manage workflows instead of just assets. Deployed in the right way, they enable greater production efficiencies, cost savings and collaboration capabilities. Welcome to the pioneering world of cloudbased MAM. Fast, global networks have given content producers the ability to do much more with production workflows and work with operators in remote locations as if they were in the office next door. Post production processes are potentially the biggest beneficiaries of this connectivity with content producers able to edit programming no matter where they are. Cloud editing helps solve several production workflow headaches while bringing a multitude of benefits to users. When working between remote locations, production teams
need to send high-resolution files from where they’ve been ingested to where they need to be edited. This not only takes up valuable time but means editors can’t begin working until transport is complete. By deploying off-premise MAM services, content producers can quickly access and edit rushes no matter where they are by sending or streaming proxy files from source to edit. This brings obvious cost and resource savings. Cloud archive and proxies can reduce online storage costs by up to 78 per cent. Having access to high-resolution assets stored a thousand miles away prevents unnecessary duplication of assets. Even though cloud technology adoption continues, it might not be the right approach for everyone. Those rolling out a new or updated MAM system need to evaluate the best options for their workflow, whether that’s an onpremise, cloud or hybrid solution. Organisations first need to consider where their teams are located and assess how a system will help them collaborate. They should also consider their need to scale as well as which teams will be contributing and using content and how easy it will be to on-board new teams in future. In an increasing number of use cases, a hybrid solution for asset management is the right answer, enabling implementation into existing production workflows and allowing migration to the cloud in stages. This allows you to adopt cloud technologies as it makes sense for individual needs, budget and infrastructure. Whether ready for a completely cloud-centric asset management workflow or just beginning the migration towards off-premise infrastructures, MAM systems are no longer about simply moving and managing content. With the right cloud-based infrastructure in place, content producers can create a more cost-effective, efficient production workflow. n
10 | TVBE FEBRUARY 2018
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OPINION AND ANALYSIS
It’s all about virtualisation, from production to delivery By Stuart Newton, vice president, strategy and business development, Telestream IneoQuest
t isn’t too dramatic to say that we’re on the cusp of a new technology-driven era where consumers can enjoy rich media on the broadest range of viewing devices in ways that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. The younger generation consume media in very different ways from their parents. The advent of OTT services is fuelling a viewer revolution, and it is the OTT delivery channel which offers so much commercial opportunity to content owners, network operators and service providers worldwide. When considering the evolution of OTT services, the role of the cloud will be dramatic, as it frequently makes practical sense for content that will ultimately be delivered via internet to be processed there. However, whilst content providers are increasingly using cloud services, this is only one part of the story when OTT is regarded in a holistic fashion. Even if a big content provider, such as Disney, puts all of its content into the cloud, the media still needs to get to the consumer’s smartphone or other consumption device. The means of doing this might be via Wi-Fi cloud, cellular network or broadband to the home. Whatever the means, the service provider / network operator plays a key role and, for them, the cloud is just one of a number of technology issues. A massive area of recent development is in Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV), which is a network architecture concept that uses the technologies to virtualise entire classes of network node functions into building blocks that may connect, or chain together, to create communication services. NFV relies upon, but differs from, traditional servervirtualisation techniques, such as those used in enterprise IT. A virtualised network function, or VNF, may consist of one or more virtual machines running different software and processes, on top of standard high-volume servers,
switches and storage devices, or even cloud computing infrastructure, instead of having custom hardware appliances for each network function. For the network operator and service provider, NFV is a huge boost since they can virtualise an entire video delivery network. They can construct a virtualised video headend on premises and build the core delivery network within their data centres. These organisations are looking to create hybrid architectures that combine NFV and cloud to create an agile software-based architecture. How can technology companies support hybrid architectures? Within an NFV environment, we need to make the probes dynamically deployable since they need to be fitted within a completely flexible software-based environment. They must be capable of being configured, controlled and adjusted on the fly from a software-based management system. In the not-too-distant future, we will see integrated real-time analytics becoming a key enabler for self-healing, scalable and optimising video networks, with a progression to using AI to rapidly diagnose and foresee issues in the video networks. The ability to hone in on the issues and dive in dynamically at various points for deeper diagnostics - or potentially even spin up a new probe where there might not be monitoring – will be critical. Network operators will need to be able to more intelligently scale, optimise and correct as necessary, ideally before the user even knows there is an issue. Already, some network operators are actively employing this approach for virtual headends, where they can fail over to a backup, completely wipe an encoder from the data centre, and spin up another one in minutes – all triggered by real-time diagnostics. n
12 | TVBE FEBRUARY 2018
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IMAGINING THE FUTURE Jenny Priestley meets the new CEO of Imagine Communications
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t the end of 2017, Imagine Communications announced the appointment of a new CEO to succeed Charlie Vogt. Tom Cotney has previously served as GM of the communications sector unit at IBM Global services, and CEO and board member for several privately held companies, including mBlox and Air2Web. Cotney’s background is in enterprise, IT and telecommunications and he says the opportunity to move into the broadcast sector was one that he’s really excited by. “This was just a great opportunity and a good time for me to focus on this particular technology sector,” Cotney explains. “Broadcast is really an interesting business. It has a lot in common with the trends that have occurred in the computer world over the last several years, where people had their own data centres and now they’re running big, secure applications at off-premise cloud companies. Broadcast is experiencing some of those same opportunities and challenges. It’s a little different though, because the data in this world is in real time.” The broadcast industry is going through fundamental change at the moment. Cotney says he’s interested in the way the market is currently being flooded with content. “Whether it’s the special series being created by Netflix, in addition to the regular networks like the BBC, there’s more content than ever before, being broadcast to more people, consuming that content on more devices. It’s not just the TV, it’s laptops and tablets and phones and I guess even my Apple watch. It’s exciting to me.” “What’s challenging is that all methods of producing the content and distributing it is in chaos,” he says. “Our point of view is that we have to be a lot more sensitive to what our customers are going through with their businesses. It’s not just enough to make great technology.” Cotney believes his experience within the IT industry will help Imagine prepare for the future as the broadcast industry moves forward. “The last company I ran, which was founded in London, provides alerts from banks via text message. We were involved in that business with a legacy platform that was very expensive and the cost of maintaining it consumed 60 per cent of my resources and that’s not where you want to be in a technology business. So, we had to change that platform and, it’s not quite the same as broadcast, but we had to move our customers over to a next generation platform without interrupting their business and we successfully accomplished that without them having to make changes on their side of the equation. I’ve lived through that both as a CEO of a business changing its infrastructure and as a CEO selling to a customer with that same problem.” Looking ahead, Cotney explains he expects major changes in terms of customers and suppliers, that will not just affect the industry as a whole, but Imagine
Communications specifically. “I don’t think the customer base is going to purchase from a fragmented industry of suppliers. The largest player globally has a market share of around ten per cent, we have seven or eight per cent market share, so there are too many people in the business and not all of those people are going to survive.” “Our plan is to definitely be a survivor, definitely get bigger, and that’s part of why I’m here,” he continues. “We have to get bigger in the right way and as we get bigger I’m encouraging the team to put themselves in our customers’ shoes and think about what their problems are. Their revenue is being challenged by streaming services, the cord-cutting phenomena is on the way to being global even if it’s not already, and there’s a lot of merger and acquisition activity in their world. A lot of customers decide as part of their big M&A charge to write off a lot of old equipment and buy new equipment so we need to be poised to take advantage of those opportunities. I’m excited about the chaos but also the overall growth in the industry.” So, what does Cotney believe are the most significant changes occurring within the industry at the moment? “I think there are a couple of things. One is that the business model in the industry is being disrupted on a number of levels. You have new competitors that are capturing market share. They are in some degree capturing it in a form of subscription revenues and not advertising revenues, but it takes eyeballs away from the old broadcast medium and that’s affecting revenue. That is a fundamental challenge in the industry. “There are also new ways to get your content out there, and again broadcasting to mobile would be the easiest thing for us all to relate to,” he says. “That’s just a different game. And the thing that I learned in the mobile business is that advertising is a different science on a five inch screen than it is on a television screen. We have a part of our business which is an ad buying platform, it’s probably a little better known in North America, but we’ll be looking to address that part of the change within the industry.” Having only been in place for a couple of months and, by his own admission, being something of a newcomer, how does Cotney see Imagine sitting within the broadcast industry in the coming years? “I think we’ve done a great job getting new technology out into the market,” he says. “Our focus is going to be on being more sensitive as to when people are ready to do that. “I see us being one of the survivors, getting bigger, and maybe being a little more sensitive to how people buy and trying to focus on being a better partner in that regard. That’s where I’d like to see us fit in the industry. We’re not just great technologists but we’re good business partners.” n
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BVE EVOLVES FOR 2018 With BVE 2018 just around the corner, Jenny Priestley talks to event manager Daniel Sacchelli about what delegates can expect from this year’s programme How did you decide on topics for this year’s seminars? Every year BVE speaks to 300 people, 100 of whom have never attended the show, to ensure we are delivering a programme that interests, engages and challenges our new and existing audience. The show is built by the industry, for the industry. As a result of our conversations, this year’s exhibition theme is ‘We are all creators’, which acknowledges the variety of roles in the wider industry, whether they are behind the camera, developing new solutions to manage workflow, or envisioning new ways to monetise content. Over 200 speakers will appear across six brand new theatres, each one representing a certain aspect of the industry – The Storytellers Stage, The Business of Production, Craft of Capture, Techflow Futures, Post in Practice, and Connected Media. Each dedicated theatre will deliver tailored content on every aspect of production, allowing visitors to easily discover the talks, workshops and seminars that are most appealing. This year’s seminar programme has also been led by the growth in technology. It has impacted every part of the production process and changed more in the last two years than it has in the last 20 years. Have the topics you’re covering changed that much from 2017? If so, why? The creative industries hold an interest in every aspect of the production process and that is why BVE 2018 has six stages that look in to each aspect. BVE has evolved to become a one-stop-shop for anybody, which means visitors can make the best use of their time. BVE has evolved from pure tech to look at what goes into AV and live from a variety of angles, including the creative standpoint, the workflow technicalities and the editing and demonstration of the impact of audio.
The session will include speakers from BBC News, HuffPost UK and Associated Press.
Each of our theatres looks at different sides of the production process, so broadcast professionals will find each appealing. However, each theatre programme has been specifically designed to make it easier for visitors to explore BVE 2018, and access the content that interests them the most. Of particular interest to the broadcast industries will be the Techflow Futures theatre, which will focus on the impact technology has had on workflow as well as exploring what direction the next few years will take the industry. Mark Harrison, DPP managing director, will be part of the seminar, ‘IMF: What does the new mastering format mean to you?’. The seminar will analyse the impacts of IMF on distribution, versioning, and localisation, as well as the impact on workflow. The Production of Business theatre will also host a seminar relating to fake news. A panel of industry experts will discuss whether user-generated content can be trusted, and is a must for broadcast professionals.
In 2017, the popularity of certain seminars led to theatres overflowing. Has this been addressed for 2018? The popularity of our seminars is huge credit to the work that goes on behind the scenes, and we want as many people as possible to hear from the influential speakers and industry icons available at this year’s event. That’s why we’ve increased capacity in our theatres, as well as introducing the ability to stream seminars into our lounges so more people than ever can see each session. We’ve also enriched the overall event experience with the introduction of Glisser, an app which will enable visitors to submit seminar questions via their mobile device even if they are unable to get in the theatre. It can be used throughout BVE 2018 to access information about the exhibition, allowing visitors to plan each day of their visit. Diversity has been a hot topic over the last few months. How are you tackling it? As part of our seminar programme, BVE is hosting an ‘Inclusivity in the creative industries’ seminar. Louise King, head of content, Media Bounty, and Riaz Meer, BAFTAnominated producer and film editor, will both talk about how the lack of diversity in front of the camera has been making headlines this year, with the BBC’s gender pay gap and high profile cases of whitewashing in film casts as well as sexual harassment controversies. The session will tackle the questions of ‘What is the situation behind the scenes, and how can we improve access and visibility in the creative industries?’ and ‘How can you embrace diversity in your organisation?’ n
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THE FUTURE OF BROADCAST SAM recently hosted its Broadcast Redefined roundtable in London. Moderated by journalist and presenter Kate Bulkley, industry experts shared their views and experience in innovation, media consumption and business models. James Groves summarises
he future of broadcast was the main topic of discussion at the exclusive Broadcast Redefined roundtable, recently hosted by Snell Advanced Media in London. The conversation kicked off with a measure of the broadcast industry’s ability – or lack thereof – to adapt to increasing consumer needs and different generations. Ginx CEO Michiel Bakker noted that broadcast companies are historically slow on this front, saying, “There’s a lack of urgency, and that is shocking.” However, Justin Gupta, Google UK’s head of broadcast and entertainment, argued that this will change as we move into areas such as eSports, as sports audiences are fairly homogenous. He said: “eSports has created a global niche with similar people in different markets, something that wasn’t possible in previous models of distribution.” According to Daniel Knapp, director of research at IHS Markit, content is breaking free of the notion of channel and becoming a value in its own right and the UK is a “fertile ground for disruption, especially when it comes to virtual operators and OTT players”. In terms of innovation in the UK, companies are experiencing pressure to innovate for consumers’ time, focusing on three areas: new packages and partnerships, competitions and original content and, finally, value chain and the bolting on of additional services. THE IMPACT OF 5G AND 8K The two key technologies to transform the broadcast industry and its business model will be 5G and 8K, according to NBCUniversal’s Bruce Mitchell. “Suddenly, distribution becomes a painless operation.” he said. He added that substantial change in consumer behaviour could seriously impact traditional entertainment spaces and that stadiums may
need to up their game with the ever-improving quality and interactivity of sporting content. BROADCASTING TO DIFFERENT AUDIENCES The discussion moved on to the generational differences in the broadcasting world, and to what extent companies may be misjudging their audiences. Simon Thomlinson, head of sponsorship, Leaders in Sport, said that it’s important to consider the fan’s journey and identify the different profiles within the fanbase in order to adapt broadcast solutions. He argued that older generations like to view live sports, while younger audiences such as millennials prefer to interact and engage in real time conversation with peers via social media. This next generation of consumers isn’t interested in watching 90 minutes of live sports, but are rather much more engaged with the retail and merchandise side of the business minus the commitment towards live events. Thomlinson stated that broadcasters have to cater to an audience between the ages of 25 and 80, and on social channels, that must be integrated in the broadcast landscape in order to reach these younger audiences. In terms of eSports on TV, the future won’t be ‘just’ a linear TV channel but rather building a digital ecosystem around it. Noted Bakker: “For us it will be jumping in deeper and connecting with our audience on multiple platforms.” Research suggests that the older generation outnumbers the younger generation in their use of OTT - something that’s only shifted in the last year. “The novelty factor has gone, they now know how to use the technology and are not afraid of it,” highlighted Gupta. “Broadcasters often overlook the potential of the older generation and don’t pay them as much attention as they should,” added Mitchell. He noted the opportunity to re-address the focus on millennials in favour of focusing
more on the existing population and older generations already impacted by the transition from radio to TV, and therefore more likely to take to the new developments in broadcast. “Technology allows us to adapt our services to support people who – for instance – are not fully mobile or who have sight problems. That’s where technology and innovation can make a real difference,” he added. DISRUPTION, DISRUPTION, DISRUPTION Disruptive technologies were next on the agenda for the panel. While technologies such as VR and AR are transforming the way we consume media, Knapp argued that we’re living a “tech-optimism” that makes us believe that new technology will change the way people consume content, when the deeper question lies in whether consumption is in fact being driven by engrained behaviour patterns, and if technology will always be subordinated to a human psychological setup. During the discussion, Bulkley questioned whether VR would really impact broadcast and if, beyond its use, it was more a gaming experience than a TV experience. “VR and AR provide us with opportunities to tell our stories in very different ways,” explained Mitchell. “VR operates in an immersive space – like 360 cinema – and introduces interactivity, while AR allows you to interact with the story in the physical space. That’s where it gets interesting.” Furthermore, it was argued that VR is set to enhance the broadcast experience, as TV did with radio. According to Gupta, it all comes down to feedback. “To know if there’s value in the content you must know what’s happening at the other end. Technology that’s internet-enabled will have that feedback and by analysing the data that’s being created over IP you can bring additional benefits.” n
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TALKING TV As TalkTalk TV prepares to launch its new platform, Jenny Priestley hears from managing director Will Ennett about why the company moved into TV, how content is king and plans for the future
alkTalk Telecom Group first launched in February 2003 as a provider of fixed line telephony services to consumers. Some 15 years later, it’s now a quadruple player, offering broadband, phone, mobile and TV services. The company’s TV offering, ingeniously named TalkTalk TV, launched in September 2012. Will Ennett, TalkTalk TV’s managing director, says the company sees its place in the market as being affordable and at “the value end of the market.” “We felt there was a gap in the market,” says Ennett. “We could be a competitor in the value space in TV, offering a lot of the same quality at a lower price. From a business perspective, TV is a product that often other telecommunication companies have, so it’s important.”
Obviously, the UK’s pay-TV market is pretty crowded. According to Ofcom’s Communications Report 2017, pay-TV platform operators (Sky UK, Virgin Media, BT TV and TalkTalk TV) increased their revenues by 2.8 per cent in real terms in 2016 to £6.4 billion, accounting for 46 per cent of broadcast industry revenue. In a crowded market place, how does TalkTalk TV stand out? “I think the first thing is that we look at ourselves as the best place for content without a lengthy contract,” says Ennett. “If you look back at the start in 2012, we’ve always had flexible monthly boosts and that’s always been quite unique in the market. We’ve enjoyed that position in the market for a long time and increasingly others are starting to offer some of their products on a flexible basis. That in a nutshell is what I think makes us different.”
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FEATURE CONTENT IS KEY “The second area is that we’re a marketplace and unlike any of our competitors in the UK,” continues Ennett. “We don’t produce any of our own content and I think that gives us an interesting perspective because our content selection and what we drive and push in the marketplace is probably a little bit more independent and really based on what we feel our customers will really value. “We wholesale a lot of content, we have partners like Sky, Disney and Fox channels and a multitude of other partners. But we also have channels such as BT Sport, Netflix that our customers can just add to their service. I think it’s the breadth of content and the good value for money which keeps us a step ahead of the competition.” So, if content is king, would TalkTalk TV ever consider creating their own content? “At the moment it’s not on our radar,” says Ennett. “I think it would probably be a big shift for us to go down that space. We always try to keep operating costs as low as possible, and exclusive and original content is an expensive investment. So to a certain extent, at the moment it doesn’t feel like it’s the right trade off for us at this time. Often the customer demand is not necessarily for exclusive content, or new or original content, but instead for making available existing content in a marketplace.” “I guess in terms of content, actual free to air content is still a really big driver,” he continues. “Customers enjoy aspects and features of our service like the PVR recording or catch up services which again are not entirely unique but they rank very, very highly in terms of what customers want and what they value. “And again, what we try and do to is make sure we deliver it really well and at great value. So we will always listen to the customer and if we’re finding that there is a demand for new content or new genres that aren’t served in the UK market then maybe we could reconsider. But at the moment it’s not something that we’ve seen.”
Ennett makes a fair point. Just recently, TVBEurope reported on research that found viewers feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content available across OTT platforms. How does TalkTalk TV go about deciding what content to deliver to customers and how it’s curated? “We have an editorial team who work with our channel partners to elevate the right content for our demographic and audience which will obviously be subtly different to what other platforms in the market will do,” he explains. “I think in terms of curating content, our set top box does a really good job of bringing together the best of free and pay-TV and it also includes a global search which collates metadata from all the different apps. That’s not necessarily on all Smart TVs or platforms so that is obviously a feature that our customers really value.” “The UK market has a very strong free to air market, there’s 80 channels and there’s a hell of a lot of catch up that comes from that,” Ennett continues. “We’re very focused on giving our customers great journeys for that experience. Then with pay-TV you’ve got the same dynamic - we wholesale Sky Cinema, that’s 1000 movies. How do you surface them well? How do you promote them? How do you promote the catch up for all of our entertainment channels? That’s a constant iterative work and there’s a lot of initiatives taking place to try and make it better for the customer.” Having been in the market for five years, how has TalkTalk TV changed since its initial launch? “From a product perspective we’ve done one major rebrand of our user experience and that was particularly successful in driving viewing, we saw a big, big increase in viewing both in free but also in pay-TV and premium content,” says Ennett. “That’s probably been the biggest change, and then imminently we’re launching our new multiscreen and TV app platform as well our multiroom service which will hopefully make us on a product level highly, highly competitive.”
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FEATURE “In the last five years the OTT platforms have entered the market and we have reached commercial agreements and put them on the platform and Now TV and Netflix are available on our service as an example. The world has evolved to have more of those and I guess our answer has been to incorporate them in to the service.”
TalkTalk TV managing director Will Ennett
READY FOR 2018 At the end of 2017, TalkTalk TV announced plans to launch a new platform, powered by CSG International’s Ascendon, which is cloud based. It will integrate set-top box viewing, the TalkTalk TV Store and TalkTalk TV’s suite of mobile apps into a new unified platform. The new platform will also enhance the operator’s multiscreen viewing experience with a new app, which will be available on up to four iOS or Android enabled devices, online and via Chromecast. “We had a number of different platforms and operating systems behind the scenes through a mixture of acquisitions and just building on different technologies,” says Ennett about the decision to move to a new provider. “It can be quite inefficient and quite expensive for the customer to be purchasing a movie on the mobile app that may not necessarily be available to them on the set top box or vice versa. So there were some customer elements that we felt weren’t quite right. “We put it out to tender and looked at various providers and CSG International proved to be the best in our opinion. Why did we outsource as opposed to doing it in house? I think there’s two things, one being cost. As I keep saying, we’re a value provider so we’re really keen to keep our operating costs low and to pass that value back to the customers. And then I think we benefit from a global roadmap. A lot of the features that CSG developed for other platforms and providers can be available to us and obviously because we’re all feeding into it that can be done quicker and more cost effectively than building a bespoke artisan platform all by ourselves. Each platform has to make that choice: are they going to do it all themselves or use vendors, and we’re very comfortable and very happy with CSG.” FUTURE PLANS As we all know, the way viewers consume content is changing. Even the Queen made mention of it in her Christmas Day message, admitting that when she began her festive broadcast 60 years ago, “who could have imagined that people would one day be watching this on laptops and mobile phones?” So, how is TalkTalk TV dealing with the change in viewing habits? “That’s a really interesting question,” says Ennett. “We’re certainly not burying our heads in the sand.
You often look at kids’ content as the bellwether of what’s happening. On the one hand, we see kids viewing on linear is remaining really robust. Also, we launched our kids remote last year, which is a remote control designed for preshoolers, three to six years of age. It gives kids the ‘power’. We saw a real spike in terms of watching on demand, watching the variety of programmes. “We are really looking forward to launching our forthcoming multiscreen TV offering and that is our solution to mobile viewing and web viewing. It’ll have premium pay, linear, on-demand, a real range across the board.” Another plan for 2018 is the launch of TalkTalk TV’s new multiroom service, allowing viewers in different rooms to watch the service at the same time. It’s expected to launch shortly after the new multiscreen offering. Again, the new service has been driven by customer feedback. “When we talk to customers about what they’re interested in, multiroom figures very highly,” says Ennett. “There are some customer habits which are not changing as fast as industry chatter would like us to believe but multiroom appears to be something customers really value.” Also in the diary for 2018 is voice control: “We have got various integrations going on with both Alexa and Google and those will be a little bit later in the year but are really exciting.” As always, TalkTalk TV’s philosophy will be to continue to offer their customers the best value for money, including a brand new skinny bundle. “It’s a new pack which is £7 a month and features 13 channels including Sky One, Sky Living, Fox, History Channel, MTV, Comedy Central and Gold,” reveals Ennett. “We’ve amassed nine of the top ten pay-TV channels in the UK market at a market-leading price. We’re really, really proud about that. The rationale is that we’ve had similarish packs in the past but we’ve never had such good quality content at the right price. Again, talking to customers, what we’ve heard consistently is there are a certain select number of channels which customers really value.” So overall 2018 is looking very positive for TalkTalk TV? “Given all those factors that I mentioned, I would say so,” laughs Ennett. “I really feel that the world where customers were happy to pay £100+ on monthly bills just for TV content is disappearing very fast. “I think in the UK regrettably there is potentially some difficult economic times ahead. This is a huge opportunity for us to tell customers we’ve got a comparable product with a lot of great features and functionality, it has a very comparable content line up but also offers access to third party applications like Netflix and is significantly lower priced. That’s the biggest thing that gives me cause for optimism for the next year.” n
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Intelligence for the media & entertainment industry
IP: The glue that will keep us together With standards and protocols being agreed and solutions being devised, IP for live production is moving from a niche into the mainstream, says Stuart Almond, head of marketing and communications
sing IP for live production is a hot topic right now. Everyone is talking about it, not least because of the potential benefits that it could bring, including increased flexibility and scalability. So, I am going to make a bold prediction. Six years from now, IP for live production will no longer be a hot topic. IP for live production will no longer be talked about. Instead, it will have become the accepted norm. It’s the way the live production industry is going. We are now witnessing a massive migration. Every big project, every new studio, every new truck, every application is making use of IP, or has IP at its core. Most of the latest solutions from Sony are IP-based, too, from the news production systems like HIVE to our cloud-based services like XDCam air and our new cloud-based switcher. Importantly, the industry is also agreeing on technical standardisation. As recently as December, SMPTE ratified three strands of the ST 2110 standard. Things are starting to get real.
Of course, simply having one standard is not enough. ST 2110 is not going to solve every problem. You need to combine it with other protocols, like AMWA’s IS-04, an NMOS discovery and registration specification that provides a way for network-connected devices to find each other. But as these protocols and standards become established, we will start to see IP becoming available as a full package for live production, simplifying the processes and making it more reliable and futureproof. Sony is deeply involved in – and supportive of – these standards and protocols. What we bring to the table is our experience of live production. It could be IP, it could be wireless, it could be cloud-based. We have been there and done it. That is what this supplement is about. Creating the big live events in the new IP world. But remember this: IP itself is not a destination. It is an enabler. It is the glue that binds all of the solutions together. And it is a trend that is definitely going to stick. n
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Get trained on IP Live Production Now To ease the transition to IP Live Production, Sony is collaborating with Juniper Networksâ€™s experts to deliver training programs that help Broadcasters and Live production companies to get up-to-speed with IP fundamentals quickly. By making sure the right theoretical and practical skills are in place, itâ€™s now possible to experience the ground-breaking benefits of IP for live production. Find out more on www.pro.sony.eu/ip
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GOING LIVE: HOW SONY IS TAKING IP LIVE AROUND THE WORLD As live broadcasting moves towards an increasingly IP-centric future, here are six examples of future-proofed Sony partners from around the world that are already reaping the benefits of IP in a live production environment
BBC STUDIOWORKS A flexible open standards approach London-based BBC Studioworks is a wholly owned commercial subsidiary of the BBC. A supplier of studio and post-production facilities, it prides itself on offering the very latest technology to its production clients. When re-furbishing its Television Centre studio facility in 2017, it chose an IP Live Production System from Sony as well as 22 Sony studio cameras, including eight HDC-4300s, plus three XVS switchers and more than 200 Sony monitors. The new studios are now UHD capable, with an upgrade path to HDR, and based on IP. “We’re confident that the technology we’ve chosen will help make Television Centre the best place to make television in the UK,” says Meryl McLaren, Commercial Manager, BBC Studioworks.
An IP infrastructure with the confidence of SDI
Seamless integration into existing workflows
Ahead of a huge summer of sport in 2016, Brazilian commercial broadcaster TV Globo commissioned a new UHD-capable OB truck that was IP-based but with an SDI signal layer. Making use of COTS switches, it features Sony MVS-8000X switchers and Sony HDC4300 cameras. On board for super slo motion are three Sony HDC4800 cameras and a Sony PWS-4500 replay and ingest server.
When TPC (Technology and Production Centre) Switzerland wanted to build an IP-based Ultra High Definition (UHD) OB truck it turned to its trusted technology partner Sony for cameras and switchers. The technical services provider purchased 21 HDC- 4300 cameras and two high-end 4K IP video switchers, the XVS-8000 and the XVS-6000. The resulting OB unit is UHD and HDR capable and is completely IP-based, operating using uncompressed SMPTE ST2110.
“Sony’s vision of 4K over IP live production technology is very much in line with ours,” says Raymundo Barros, chief technology officer at TV Globo.
“Our goal is always to provide our customers with the latest technology standards, like 4K and HDR productions over IP, to enable them to produce the best possible broadcasts now and in the future.” says Andreas Lattmann, chief technical officer at TPC.
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SUPPLEMENT CCTV Reliability in even the most challenging live environments An IP-based UHD OB van built by CCTV in 2017 for covering sport and entertainment events has Sony equipment at its core with all major components coming from Sony’s IP Live systems and products range. Making use of COTS switches, the acquisition and signal routing is handled by Sony HDC-4300 and HDC-4800 camera chains with networking over IP performed reliably by a Sony XVS-7000 switcher. Sony’s IP Live System Manager (LSM) simplifies management and monitoring of all IP networked devices.
SKY PERFECT JSAT
A versatile and future-proof working environment
Significant flexibility and scalability, with a trusted partner
Florence’s Telerecord is an OB facilities provider that specialises in live sport and music. As part of a re-fresh of its mobile units, it bought Sony HDC-4300 cameras to be used as an integral part of a complete IP-ready interconnected system.
Since April 2017, the multi-channel TV services provider SKY Perfect JSAT has used a Sony 4K broadcast IP routing system as part of its UHD broadcasts. The set-up uses IP to output and monitor 4K broadcast video and includes a Sony HDRC-4000 HDR production converter unit, setting the company on a path towards 4K HDR production. Sony’s IP technology, including its IP Live System Manager, provides SKY Perfect JSAT with the flexibility to add more video lines and easily change its transmission formats, allowing for the quick configuration of highly extensible transmission and monitoring.
“Sony solutions will be used on our mobile units to ensure superior quality and greater flexibility in the control room, which is involved in live event productions,” says Telerecord chief executive Fabio Bertini. “The investment marks the start of a journey towards an IP LIVE infrastructure that allows us to optimise the wiring of the mobile units and ensures greater flexibility in the configuration of the devices inside it.”
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IP: THE FUTURE IS NOW IP is the present and future of live production, so itâ€™s vital that broadcasters and facilities providers start implementing their plans now, argues Nicolas Moreau, live production solution marketing manager. And Sony is well positioned to help them do exactly that
ony is well known for making a big investment in product development. We are famous for spending huge amounts of time, effort and money on researching, devising and perfecting tools and solutions that help creative companies to make great content. What is less well known is the investment that we make in developing workflows, especially for live production. As producers, broadcasters and OB facilities providers push for more content, more output and more deliverables, Sony is right there
beside them, in the car parks and in the compounds, in all weathers, making sure that everything goes to plan. Itâ€™s a successful partnership for all concerned. It allows us to ensure that the technology works perfectly for the production team and, at the same time, we learn and share many lessons and gain huge amounts of experience. As a consequence, we truly understand the importance of reliability and flexibility. We know that facility providers need to be sure that the devices they supply to production are, firstly, going
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SUPPLEMENT to work and then, importantly, deliver a high-quality output. They also want a return on their investment, and some longevity from it. These have become the cornerstones of what we do. We’ve proven it beyond doubt in recent times. Go back to the early 2000s and Sony was at the forefront of the introduction of HD. Working with all the relevant parties, we saw our camera chain become the de facto standard for HD. Then, as consumer demand changed, we worked very hard with a number of broadcasters to work out how to increase the quality again and move them to 1080 50p HD. We did this not only in the labs and in the factories, but on the ground too. In the car parks. In the compounds. In the rain. SHAPING LIVE PRODUCTION TOGETHER With UHD, we were again right there at the start. In 2013 we worked on the FIFA Confederations Cup but we had been testing long before that. The upshot of that work was the eight matches at the 2014 FIFA World Cup that were captured in UHD, supported by Sony. We’ve also worked on Champions League finals with UEFA and on the Ryder Cup too. Having proved the point about UHD, we are now moving on to HDR. In the middle of this adventure we introduced the HDC-4300 camera chain. It was developed based on a recognised demand from the market. We asked the people on the ground what they wanted. They wanted a camera chain that worked with broadcast lenses and seamlessly integrated with existing live production workflows, while also offering the increased resolution and supported BT.2020/S-Log3 for HDR. So we built it. And it’s been massively successful. So much so that it will be the default camera chain for the next big event in 2018. Following on from a successful deployment this summer at the FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia, the Sony Sports Innovations team has been selected to provide venue production services to host broadcast services at the FIFA World Cup. We will be delivering both the HD and 4K HDR services at all 64 matches. Another World Cup offering will be PlayStation VR Live. This is for the generation of viewer that doesn’t watch TV. A service that allows them, through the power of the PlayStation console and network, to choose their viewing angle and replays, to explore the stadium around them and to interact with friends via social media. All while also viewing the main broadcast feed. It has taken a lot of effort, but through PlayStation VR Live we have learned that it is possible
to take live production straight to the consumer from the venue, utilising the power of the cloud. If you’re wondering what all this has to do with IP, let me explain. IP is the future of live production. Of that there is no doubt. It is also the present. The HDC-4300 is already IP-capable, for example, and so are many other parts of Sony’s portfolio. IP also enables REMI. There are no doubts that broadcast operators and production companies are now seeking better ways to produce more quality contents with less resources. Streamlining the production workflows by optimising the equipment usage is now possible. REMI, or Remote Integration, enables users to put production tools in a remote data centre. Live events can be covered and immediately when the show is over another one can start from another location. These unique sharing capabilities lead to major production business model changes and new ways of working. We are now paving the way to such modern production applications. Once the ongoing IP standardisation process takes hold across the wider industry, it will become the de facto for live. It is only a matter of time.
PICTURED ABOVE: Nicolas Moreau
THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS I believe that Sony’s expertise in live workflow development and our experience on the ground, including the learning we have gained across HD, UHD, HDR and VR, is going to be vital to future success with IP. We are already supporting and working hand-inhand with the relevant bodies on open IP standards and protocols, not to mention best practice guidelines. When you combine this with our experience of being on the ground, in the car park, in the rain, we are ideally placed to help broadcasters, producers and facilities providers make the move to IP. And we can help them to do it in a practical and pain-free way. That is why we already offer a four-day collaborative training course that brings together our knowledge of live production with Juniper Network’s networking expertise. The hands-on sessions at the Sony Digital Motion Picture Centre Europe in Pinewood Studios provide all the information required to design and build a complete IP live chain from end-to-end. IP is happening and it is happening now. The time to react is also now. And because we are embracing open and flexible IP standards - and we understand the requirements of live production – Sony can help broadcasters, producers and facilities providers on every step of their IP journey. n
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CREATING AN OLYMPIC LEGACY The Olympic Games are back on Eurosport, and Discoveryâ€™s backing is set to make it bigger and better than ever. James Groves speaks to Eurosport CEO Peter Hutton to find out more
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ollowing a six-year hiatus, Eurosport is once again delivering Olympic coverage across Europe. February will see hundreds of hours of sporting content broadcast across almost every device and avenue imaginable. 2018 marks the start of Discovery’s £922 million exclusive pan-European rights deal for the Olympic Games, following its acquisition of Eurosport in 2015. The full effects of that agreement won’t be felt until 2022, with the BBC having already secured rights packages for Pyeongchang 2018 and Tokyo 2020 before Discovery made its move. REWRITING THE RULEBOOK Eurosport’s return to the fold, claims CEO Peter Hutton, will deliver an unprecedented upgrade to the broadcaster’s previous coverage. “Before Discovery’s backing, Eurosport was essentially dependent on feeding on scraps of coverage,” he says. “We would fit everything around the requirements of the large free-to-air broadcasters, and then do what we could with the remainder. “When Discovery bought Eurosport, it was time to completely rewrite the rulebook and put ourselves at
the heart of the decision-making. We knew we’d still be putting out significant coverage to the free-to-air broadcasters (100 hours for the Winter Games, and 200 for the Summer Games), but we began to investigate how we can create something that allows us to take real ownership of the coverage, in addition to working with those sub-licensees.” If one thing is clear, it’s that Eurosport takes pride in its work. “We focused on two real differentiation points,” Hutton continues. “It’s the first time we can watch every single minute of the Games across Europe, so we want to be streaming every single event and make absolutely everything available. Secondly, we need to be offering a technological or talent reason that says ‘this coverage is better than ever’ and seeds into the fact that Eurosport has a day-to-day, every-week-of-the-year relationship with a lot of Olympic sports.” STANDING OUT FROM THE CROWD The ‘talent reason’ Hutton refers to is the ambition to have big-name experts throughout local areas during the Games, with over 150 winter sports experts and commentators on the team – the
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FEATURE most recent announcement being six-time Olympic medallist Bode Miller. “Alongside those big-name experts, we’ll be showcasing the latest in AR at the heart of our analysis, and offering a longer campaign that makes the Olympics a year-round presence on Discovery,” explains Hutton. “Those are the sorts of things that allow us to stand out from the traditional broadcasters who cover the Games in the ways that they do.” So, how exactly will all this affect what the viewer sees on screen? “There are different elements to the change,” explains Hutton. “First of all, we’ve got a huge offering on TV. We go 24/7 on Eurosport 1 across Europe with Olympic content, so there’s more on TV to start. And we’re using other channels in the Discovery network to make that a really clear story. For example, TLC in Germany is very much women’s-focused, and will favour the ice-skating.”
“In terms of the coverage outside of TV, there are two elements,” continues Hutton. “Firstly, it’s about showing this massive volume of live content available and allowing people to choose the sports that they want to watch. But then the second part of it is about short-form content, and putting content out on social media and using all the different weapons at our disposal to try and hit as wide as possible audience.” One example of this is Eurosport’s partnership with Snap. Announced in October, the deal will see several types of professionally curated content on Snap’s Discover platform, offering multi-language content such as behind-the-scenes action from various Olympic events.
“When Discovery bought Eurosport, it was time to completely rewrite the rulebook and put ourselves at the heart of the decision-making”
THE NEXT GENERATION Eurosport is also working with its free-to-air channels throughout Norway, Sweden and Denmark to make the Games as accessible as possible for everyone.
The beneﬁts of a webinar include: • TVBEurope will act in the capacity of an independent facilitator and moderator • Topics of discussion to be set by the client or in collaboration with TVBEurope • Can take the form of either a Powerpoint presentation or a webcast • Unlike a 1-2-1 conference it is not restricted by geographical or temporal factors • Live Q&A session to encourage dialogue • Ideal for lead generation • Ongoing promotion following the webinar’s transmission
• 5 x e-blasts • Advertisement on each of the three sites: TVBEurope, TV Technology Global, and NewBay Connect • Advertisement included on multiple newsletters sent across the three databases • All generated leads to be shared with the client • Follow up correspondence/reminders to all non-attended registrations • Permanent hosting on each of the three sites
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TVBE FEBRUARY 2018 | 23
“Our deal with Snap will bring in a whole new demographic into watching sporting content,” says Hutton. “We’re really pleased that Snap have made that big decision to get involved in sport in Europe, through us and through the Games.” Hutton points to Eurosport’s The Commissioner of Football with Eric Cantona, and The Commissioner of Tennis with John McEnroe – both created in the past 12 months – to give an idea of how short-form content can work within sports. He says: “They’ve been really viral, shareable content that takes sports events to a much bigger audience, and also transforms our image along the way.” Hutton continues: “If you look at the ways in which we promote and push the Games content, we could easily just say that we’ll do it in a traditional way, through traditional mediums, but we wanted to engage
“Using AR in our Eurosport Cube allows presenters to convey their opinions and analysis by pointing, touching and feeling as opposed to sitting behind a desk” PETER HUTTON
with external partners to create a bigger story.” When Discovery initially made its deal with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), it committed itself to bringing the Games to more screens and more people than ever before, and partnerships with modern, up-and-coming technology companies such as Snap offers the potential to engage with the next generation of viewers. “Snap allows us to hit a different audience, as well as our advertisers,” explains Hutton. “With the generation that uses Snap, we want to increase their potential to move up to watching live sports because I think you need to look after that next generation coming through and permanently push people to watching the live sports experience.” EXPERIMENTING WITH THE FUTURE For Eurosport, the Olympic coverage isn’t simply about finding new avenues and platforms – it’s about advancing the established ones too. The broadcaster will bring what it is calling the ‘Eurosport Cube’ to PyeongChang this month, and Hutton hopes it will offer AR in a way never seen before. “In experimenting with Olympic Sports over the past 18 months, one of the things we’ve found really interesting is the ways in which you can utilise the technology available to you,” says Hutton.
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“Using AR in our Eurosport Cube is a way of allowing presenters to convey their opinions and analysis by pointing, touching and feeling as opposed to sitting behind a desk and purely having to describe it with language. It makes sport a lot more accessible, and it also means that the viewers’ experience becomes far more interesting.” Hutton recently discovered that many sports federations and coaches are beginning to implement Eurosport materials as training tools. “That’s a real badge of authenticity and demonstrates that we’re really making a difference to the understanding of the sport,” says Hutton.
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“What we’re going to do with the Cube in Korea is put different presenters in there from different countries speaking different languages, using AR to really explain the key moments of the Games. We think it will open up a really different perception on how the sports work.” TRANSFORMING COVERAGE From a broadcaster’s perspective, one of the greatest things about the Olympics is the opportunity to take a few risks and try out different technologies – especially on such a prominent stage – the really capture the imagination of the audiences around the globe.
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“Experimenting with the Olympics gives us the chance to try and make a legacy on the back of new technology,” says Hutton. “When we talked about where we wanted to go with Eurosport, we said ‘let’s really transform its image and make it somewhere that’s about cutting-edge technology, and create a perception that we really know our sport.’ And that’s exactly what we’re going to do – build on it, and build on it again. The Cube for example is almost an empty box, and as AR and VR develop, we can use those analysis tools, improve event by event, and tell better and better stories.” Such a significant uptake in content creation and curation is bound to be a huge challenge for any organisation. Eurosport will have around a thousand employees working in Korea throughout the Games,
“As AR and VR develop, we can use those analysis tools, improve event by event, and tell better and better stories” PETER HUTTON
with many more in various offices around Europe. “It’s a big step up for us, in terms of production, definitely,” says Hutton. “I think particularly because the way that we’re producing now is very different to the way that Eurosport has in the past. “We used to put out one video feed to the whole of Europe and put different bits of commentary on it. Now we’re localising the video, bringing in local presenters, local stories and making it more relevant in each individual market. And, obviously, that takes a lot more people, and a lot more equipment, and a lot more logistical planning. Thankfully, we’ve had two years to work on it! Our equipment is already in place in PyeongChang. We’ve tested it, we’ve carried out rehearsals in the studios and shipped everything out there, so a lot of the logistical work is already done. Hopefully, we can now take the fruit of that when it comes to Games time.” Hutton concludes: “We want a legacy for the Games. Not just for the Olympics itself, but to make the Games more relevant to a younger and wider audience. We want Eurosport to be seen as somewhere where sport is seen in the best way. We want people to want their sport on Eurosport, and I think that’s something we’ve made real progress with in sports like cycling and tennis. Now, we bring that to Winter sports.” n
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Media services company TVT acquired AMCâ€™s Digital Media Centre in July 2017. George Jarrett meets CEO Ian Brotherston to find out how the acquisition is driving change within the company
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ith so many industry companies quietly up for sale and a consolidation tsunami on the way, the TVT swoop for AMC’s fully-virtualised playout facility DMC (now in a new building) was a marriage of huge convenience in terms of widening content delivery services, chumming up with big content brands, and deepening technology capabilities. Asked about this potency, TVT CEO Ian Brotherston says: “TVT has been a long-standing international player focusing on content versioning, localisation, and transcoding. DMC expands both our global standing and our global offering. It gave us quite a lot more global brands, but more importantly it gave us more services.“ DMC came with contracted work from Liberty Global, AMC Networks International, Sony Pictures and A&E Networks, a company TVT was servicing too. “By putting the two together we have a business that does all the versioning work but also does the scheduling, distribution and play-out, which we used to deliver to somebody else,” says Brotherston. “It gives me a far bigger geographical spread and a much wider portfolio of products, but in terms of realising all the benefits it is going to be in the second half of the year.” Given the market trends driven by the cost of competing with content, how is the industry coping with the impact of Netflix and Amazon? “For many content owners and broadcasters the emergence of those two is challenging. Many are still trying to figure out whether they are friend or foe. The one thing we do see not stopping is the globalisation of content,” Brotherston explains. “Content owners seek to move into new markets to monetise content they spent a lot of money on, which is driven by OTT. The problem that comes is that different markets mean different platforms and different versions,” he adds. “What TVT can do is deliver the right product correctly to almost anywhere in the world now. And that means version, localise, edit, and compliance.”
INSULAR TERRITORIES With DMC secured, the finishing, transcoding and editing work is monitored in both Amsterdam and Asia. How far do politics go in disrupting the global exposure of content? “Politics is a big issue. We have the politics of the changing market and whether Netflix is friend or foe, and then some territories, like Japan and Korea, are really quite insular, so for them content can be very political,” says Brotherston. “It still boils down to if you have spent an increasing amount of money on creating content you have got to make it acceptable politically, technically and editorially. People have got to get to new markets to get their money back.” This feeds TVT its organic growth, because everything requires unique creation to make it work. It helps that any piece of content is marked so it can automatically trigger a version created for almost any market as required. “We would highlight the sole of someone’s shoe being publicly shown even though it is a programme going out in the US and Europe, just in case it goes eventually to Thailand as well. That applies to the editing and the metadata,” says Brotherston. “The benefits of acquiring DMC are that we are now end-to-end. We can now distribute anywhere, in the right format, with the right legal compliance, the right editorial sensitivity, and the right transcode. We have been able to say to broadcasters in Asia we understand the standards you expect, and we can deliver the content you expect, and we can monitor it as well,” he adds. TVT is virtually an all-IP business, from content management to play-out and play-out scheduling. It doubled in size with the DMC acquisition and Brotherston now ranks TVT as “mid tier” but not as big as Ericsson and some other giant players. “On some of the service offerings we are getting there, and we have a genuine lead in terms of technology,” he says. “That comes from quite a lot of investment, a lot of understanding around innovation, and a strong company belief that content is at the heart
“We can now distribute anywhere, in the right format, with the right legal compliance, the right editorial sensitivity, and the right transcode” IAN BROTHERSTON
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FEATURE of everything. We are nimble, quick and fast, and doing the right thing. “We spend an average of seven per cent of our turnover on R&D, and DMC is unique in terms of having fully virtualised play-out services. Investment has given them a lead and given us a lead as well,” he adds. “Some of it was investment spent by AMC on DMC before the acquisition so I consider myself lucky to have picked it up at the right time: we are ahead because AMC spent so much on DMC and because TVT has traditionally spent more than most on innovation.” TVT is no longer counted amongst the small boys, but Brotherston has immense respect for start-ups from his days as CEO of video streaming and recommendation minnows. He says: “In those sorts of worlds where you are having pure internet, pure IP high growth, you have quite a lot of concentration on innovation and a cando attitude. Being both of TVT and my previous life it gives me the desire to constantly move forward and be innovative. The big suppliers in this market have been forced to re-engineer themselves, and what I am very aware of is that as you get big you must not stop looking at your competitors and at the market, and don’t stop being innovative. “There will be further consolidation in the market because some of the big players do not move as quickly as they should and many come in from the wrong end of the market,” he adds. “Our sole focus is content, and that is the area that continues to drive change.” PSBS HAVE THE INTELLECTUAL PROWESS Does Brotherston believe that public service broadcasters can fight back and survive? “The PSBs have got a few advantages. Many have a really strong brand in the same but lesser way Amazon, Netflix and Disney have, and they have really clever people working for them. You need the brains to be aware that the market is changing, and PSBs have the intellectual prowess and the awareness to do something about it. That should work in their favour,” he says. “But then the cost of creating content is so
huge: PSBs have competitors with deeper pockets, which is challenging to them, but they do have brand ID if they can sustain it.” What single thing would make Brotherston happier? “At the moment we’ve got the continual diversification across territories, across platforms, and that movement of media needs to be simplified at multiple levels. SMPTE ST 2110 certainly helps us in certain circumstances to improve things, and in many ways it brings many people onto the same platform as us. “But for us to drive efficiencies to help those content owners and broadcasters who are chasing the dollars by distributing their content around the world we want those standards to help us use software to become more efficient at all the different levels,” he adds. TVT uses a tonne of technology for doing things right down to a pass between a sub-title file and voice recognition on the video file, just to have a view on whether there are errors to highlight. “There is a lot of AI and science being integrated into those processes, but it still requires the art. We have people that just love TV and they have a real understanding of what’s offensive in Thailand, Korea or Japan. They also know how to craft the content beautifully, which is crucial when you can make edits that make the content look like something that has been butchered,” says Brotherston. “There are still science and art parts to this business.” TVT is getting more involved in personalisation, a key facet over IP, and with product placement. The big driver is not more ads but better ads, delivered over IP networks using programmatic delivery. “This is the background infrastructure for delivering the ad at the right price at the last minute. That’s how your big bucks from advertising generate,” says Brotherston. “Product placement will come and the personalisation over IP is definitely able. The economics are driven by pragmatism. Globalisation drives complexity, and that is where we step in and help.” n
“Our sole focus is content, and that is the area that continues to drive change” IAN BROTHERSTON
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TAKING AIM Following AIMS’ merger with the MNA in December, chair Mike Cronk talks to James Groves about evolution, education and value for money
PICTURED ABOVE: Merger discussions first began at NAB 2017
f there was one buzzword to summarise 2017, it was collaboration. It echoed incessantly throughout the Amsterdam RAI at NAB and IBC. In every panel, every presentation, every idle conversation, its gravity could not be overstated. It comes as little surprise, then, that one of the youngest, most prominent bodies in the broadcast industry opted against marking its second birthday with a whimper. The Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS) announced its merger with the Media Networking Alliance (MNA) in December after full members of both organisations voted in favour of the move.
The pair tied the knot following two years of close collaboration, but AIMS chair Mike Cronk is quick to stress that this is not simply a formalisation; it’s a significant evolution. “Even before AIMS was officially launched, there was an alignment of the two organisations,” explains Cronk. “Many of our original bylaws were actually modelled on the MNA – due in part to the fact that one of the AIMS board members (Lawo’s Andreas Hilmer) was also on the MNA board. “Before we formed, we communicated with the MNA and explained what we doing. They understood that our focus was on broadcast, but that we wanted to
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FEATURE be aligned with regards to AES67, so that relationship was in place from the outset.” Within that first year, AIMS signed a formal liaison agreement with the MNA, allowing a representative of each body to attend the other’s working group meetings. “In that sense, we’ve always been communicating and coordinating, but activities were largely separate,” says Cronk. One of the pair’s more significant collaborations was the IP Showcase, which debuted at NAB 2017 before being repeated at IBC2017, with plans for a third at this year’s NAB. “The MNA provided a great voice for the IP Showcase, ensuring that we’re speaking to and addressing the needs of the audio community as well as broadcast,” Cronk says. It was around the time of the first IP Showcase that AIMS and MNA put the merger wheels into motion. “At that time, it was more of a basic ‘hey, what do you think of this idea?’ as opposed to anything firm,” explains Cronk. “It took a long time for us to map out the process; ensuring we had a really strong integration plan, and understanding how it could/ would be rolled out. “It was around October when it was all prepared and ready to discuss with members. We took a vote and were able to merge. The merger required not only the approval of both boards, but also 50 per cent of all members. The vote was unanimous on both sides, so it wasn’t particularly controversial!” So, if the merger is much more than just a formalisation, what exactly will this new synergy deliver? “The reason I think this is such a large step is that we’ve seen the potential of how this collaboration can help both the broadcast and audio/pro AV industries, and there’s going to be one management structure across them,” explains Cronk. “By combining membership, the bigger, stronger AIMS can reach a greater section of the media and entertainment market. We’re excited about the potential of this merger to fulfill our mission more quickly.” Putting business evolution aside for a moment, a further bonus for members will be a new, combined membership fee. But how will losing out on this income affect AIMS’ financial position? “The new reduced fee is a great benefit for our members,” says Cronk. “So naturally, our total income drops, but not by a gigantic amount. Ultimately, AIMS needs to provide value for its membership. The whole point of value is constantly looking at how you can provide that value more efficiently.
“So, in the long term, we believe we’re doing the right thing; providing a new structure that’s sensible and reasonable, and will ultimately lead to more members, and a a better organisation that people will have a desire to join.” “From a financial perspective, we’re on a tremendous footing,” Cronk continues. “Frankly, the membership of AIMS has increased its number beyond any of expectations. We exist to build the organisation. We have an administrator, and that’s the only paid contractual employee on an ongoing basis. We take the rest of the funds and invest in things like the IP Showcase and marketing, education and training to facilitate the adoption of common standards and specifications for IP and interoperability. He concludes: “So far, that approach has been extremely successful and well received, so that’s the way we want to continue.” n
PICTURED BELOW: Mike Cronk, AIMS chair
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THE FUTURE IS PICKLE TV By Jenny Priestley
n January, Orange announced the launch of a new premium content offering, aimed at millennials. Pickle TV is available on tablets, smartphones, PCs and through Orange’s set-top box and carries no advertising. Christian Bombrun, director of entertainment and new users at Orange France describes Pickle TV as a “new type of TV package.” “If you look specifically at the target group aged 15 to 35, they subscribe to content but they don’t watch that much linear TV. They watch more and more mobile content, more and more on demand content, and more and more short content,” he explains. “But if you look at a traditional TV package, they’re falling behind in terms of penetration. So we decided to put together a specific TV offering targeted at this audience group and it is primarily marketed for the mobile screen.” Pickle TV aggregates a wide range of content for “the curious and connected.” The content package was put together following extensive research which aimed to define which areas of content Orange wanted the offering to include. “Within the package you find five linear channels and four VoD services,” explains Bombrun. “It covers several content areas, probably the strongest is eSports, it’s a linear and on-demand channel called ES1 and it’s actually the first French eSports channel ever. It launched simultaneously with Pickle TV. Then there’s Studio+ which features premium short series for mobile. They are the two biggest channels. “We also have a comedy service called Golden Stories, it’s a linear channel and it has exclusive content specially produced for Pickle TV,” continues Bombrun. “Spicee is a news channel, it’s a French start-up and covers documentaries and news reports with short form video. There’s also all 17 seasons of South Park, you’ve also got Manga One, Game One, and channels from Viacom as well. Overall that’s a bundle of content that makes sense for the target group.” Of course Orange is best known for its telecoms. What benefits are there for it to run a TV service?
“There are two layers. The first is to add value to every one of our customers,” says Bombrun. “All our broadband customers are Triple Play customers, so they have internet, telephone and TV. So TV is part of the basic proposition when you subscribe to Orange. The main goal is to make our customers happy, not to be just a transporter but to also add value in terms of what we deliver to the customers. The second layer is to raise our revenues. “We charge money for most of the content we offer across our platforms and in the French market we are the number one seller of all the main channels and these create additional revenues.” RISK VERSUS REWARD “We are taking a certain level of risk with Pickle TV that goes outside our traditional TV package,” admits Bombrun. “On the Orange set-top box you already have a large amount of content, so we are taking some risk and we will see how it goes. We believe we will reach a large number of subscribers because the offer is brand new, it has content that you are not going to find anywhere else. We believe the target group is looking for this kind of content, and our very low price (€4.99 per month) is roughly half the price of a standard TV package. It’s very good value, so that should drive usage and subscribers.” There are currently no plans to expand Pickle TV outside of France. But, Bombrun says subscribers who sign up now can expect to see the package develop significantly in the coming months, both in terms of content and the user experience. “It’s likely that in the coming months the amount of channels we’re offering will increase as well as the content that each of the channels carries,” he explains. “It’s primarily a mobile experience so the user experience is supposed to be very ‘friendly’, but we will continue to fine-tune the UX over the coming six to 12 months. We expect to have a couple more channels and a new version of the UX in the coming months to improve the experience.” n
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PICTURED: Christian Bombrun, director of entertainment and new users, Orange France
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CAPTURING THE SOUND ON
GAME OF THRONES
James Groves chats to Game of Thrones production sound mixer Daniel Crowley. He talks DPA, audience engagement and clean dialogue. Spoilers for season seven follow
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PRODUCTION AND POST
inter may already be upon us, but Game of Thrones still has one last run of epic drama before we mourn the end of what is often referred to as the best show of all time. One pivotal role often lost among the thrilling twists and turns, star performances and breath-taking visual effects is that of the sound department. That’s where production sound mixer Daniel Crowley comes in. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. GROWING STRONG Crowley practically grew up in a local music venue in Ireland, where he played around with various amplification and music recording equipment. When he hit 17, a David Puttnam film, The War of the Buttons, was being shot nearby, and Crowley was brought in as a sound trainee on the project. “I was hooked,” smiles Crowley. “I loved the challenge of dialogue recording and the film set family atmosphere. I had gone to university to study film and fine art, but I left before I completed it. The desire to be on film sets was too much.” Crowley pursued work as a trainee in Ireland, and eventually became a boom operator at the age of 20. He continued to work on features and TV productions of all budgetary scales in the UK and Ireland for the following 12 years. “I also loved recording for documentaries in between drama shoots,” says Crowley. “By the time I hit 30, I felt the need to progress into mixing, and was lucky enough to work on Shane Meadows’ films for a couple of years. He continues: “As a boom op, I finely tuned my ears to what microphones are capable of in the environments we use them in. Being on mic and off mic are separated by tiny margins when booming. I knew lightness and rejection abilities were key to get the best recordings possible. So when I first took the DPA d:dicate 4017B and 4017C Shotgun Microphones for a test run, I bought into it immediately and have been growing the family of microphones ever since. “They are very natural sounding mics, uncoloured, and they’re true to the actors’ performance.” Having worked on productions such as Angels and Demons, Control, Made of Stone and The Other Boleyn Girl, Crowley moved back to Ireland from London ten years ago in a hunt for a change of scenery. Production sound mixer Ronan Hill had previously worked with Crowley on Hunger, and recommended him to the production for Game of Thrones. THE FIELD THAT GUARDS THE REALMS OF MEN Lavaliers have become compulsory on large multi-camera shoots, according to Crowley. “We rely heavily on them to mix well with our booms to capture dialogue.” This, says Crowley, is particularly crucial for field recording. “Ten years ago, mixing lavs and booms could be ugly. With my DPAs, I can provide a mix that compliments a performance. On Game of Thrones, eight to ten speaking cast members in a scene is a regular occurrence. Mixing DPA boom mics with DPA lavs allows me to get the best of each actor’s unique voice.”
He continues: “DPA lavaliers are preferred by all location sound crews on Game of Thrones, and post production demands them. To me, no other microphone captures an actor’s performance with as much integrity and authenticity as DPA. I believe the mic quality has a direct impact on how much an audience engages with an actor’s performance, which is why I exclusively use DPA for the show.” In total, Crowley uses six different DPA mics on set. For lavaliers, he uses DPA d:screet 4063 miniature omnidirectional with lo-sens and DC and d:screet 4080 miniature lavalier cardioid microphones. On boom, Crowley uses d:dicate 4011A and 4011C cardioid and d:dicate 4017B and 4017C shotgun microphones. “My favourite mic is the 4011C on the boom for interiors,” says Crowley. “After years of use, it still amazes me how much detail is captured, even when pushed out by lighting or some other extraneous force. In the final episode of season seven, Jon Snow pledged his allegiance to Dany, a scene where every word is important. Jon had no shirt on, which meant no lavs could be used, and the ‘morning sun’ lighting on top of the small four-poster bed gave me mere centimetres above Jon and Dany’s heads. “I could barely squeeze the 4011’s on poles over the actors, but even with limited space the results were astounding. This scene was mostly whispered, but with my DPA’s the viewers didn’t miss a word.” UNBOWED, UNBENT, UNBROKEN Season seven was shot across various regions and in a wide range of temperatures. “We shot on location in a few different countries and landscapes,” says Crowley. “DPA’s are used in temperatures from -20 to 40 degrees Celsius. The fact that we can rely on the DPA’s to perform just as well after travelling all over different countries and in any temperature, speaks to the mics’ robustness and reliability. All scenes demand the same attentiveness to the dialogue and my DPA’s deliver every time.” The crews are also thankful for the DPA’s when it comes to the extravagant costumes used on the show. “The costumes in the Game of Thrones world are so varied: handmade dresses for Cersei and Dany, heavy cloaks for Jon Snow, armour for the knights, and the White Walkers and Children of the Forest are in a whole different league. With the DPA mics, we can sew, glue, stick and staple lavs in every conceivable fashion through the costumes. It is astounding how much battering the mics can take and they still sound just as good as when they were fresh out of the box.” Crowley is looking forward to taking his DPA’s on more adventures for the final season of Game of Thrones and beyond. “I love the show, it’s always exciting and rewarding to see the final product broadcast and how the many fans react to each season. Each year it gets bigger and better, and the end result always surpasses expectation. It has been groundbreaking and I believe will continue to be so. He concludes: “Season eight is going to be massive and I can’t wait to get started again. My DPA’s will be right beside me and I look forward to using them on many different projects moving forward.” n
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A GRITTY GRADE FOR
Norwegian comedy drama Norsemen employed DaVinci Resolve to grade the show not once, but twice. TVBEurope finds out more
he team behind Norwegian comedy drama Vikingane could be forgiven for getting a feeling of déjà vu. Each season of the series, which is set in the small Viking settlement of Norheim in the year 790, is shot twice. First, each scene is shot with Norwegian dialogue for national broadcaster NRK, then an English version is filmed immediately after, for international release as Norsemen, which is available on Netflix. Twice the footage could mean twice the workload for post, and with the turnaround for episodic TV series becoming increasingly tight, the production team has had to develop an effective workflow. ShortCut Oslo’s colourist Dylan R. Hopkin graded both seasons, and credits a close working relationship with the directors, producers and DoPs together with DaVinci Resolve’s grading features as the keys to a successful post process. “For season two, DoP Thomas Løkkeberg and I collaborated on where to take the visuals with the show’s creators, Jon Iver Helgaker and Jonas Torgersen, and the producers,” begins Hopkin. “Starting these discussions
early in the production schedule is always fruitful, as it helps formulate guidelines that all of us could keep in mind through rehearsals, principal cinematography, the shoots in both languages and finally the post production.” The show’s main shooting format was 4K RED RAW, with UHD resolution DJI drone footage and VFX comps. To get retime playback on the RED RAW files Dylan used DaVinci Resolve’s built in render cache to cache to Quicktime ProRes 4444. “This gave me a very flexible foundation in the workflow, because you have direct access to the RAW files at all times, but you still have powerful real time performance during the grade,” Hopkin continues. With many shows such as Game of Thrones having a similar look and feel, Hopkin says that it was important for the team to give Norsemen its own identity. “Even though the show’s humour is blunt, the aesthetic is very serious and epic. Production delivered amazing attention to detail in the costumes, makeup and locations, so I wanted the grade to complement their hard work.”
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PRODUCTION AND POST Hopkin kept close to the first season’s direction for cold, gritty exteriors, contrasted with saturated, warm interiors lit by firelight. Skin tones and details such as the browns in clothing and leather also needed to be kept warm. However the grade was expanded, particularly for new locations, as Hopkin explains. “In this second series, the chieftain and his gang head to England to pillage villages, and it was important that the colour palette here was lush and rich, to reflect that this was paradise for the Viking warriors.” In order to produce the two versions of each episode, Hopkin essentially had to grade each episode twice. “The two versions shared roughly 30 per cent of non-dialogue imagery, first I would grade the Norwegian version and use Resolve’s ColorTrace tool to copy across all the grades for the co-existing shots to give me a starting point for the English episode,” he explains. Consistency throughout the grades was a challenge, and made even tougher because so much footage was shot outdoors in extremely variable weather conditions. Additionally, the team used a lot of smoke on set for greater authenticity. “Resolve’s node based system really helps you to build a consistent grade up, as well as borrow, reuse and connect different states of a grade
within a node tree,” continues Hopkin. “I tend to use offsets together with lift, gamma, gain, temperature and tint for the heavy lifting, and then when I’m managing saturation and hue shifts, I always reach for the curves and vs-curves. They offer a clean and intuitive behaviour for further look development.” As an additional timesaving tool, Hopkin deployed different aesthetics to clips at Group Post Clip level, allowing the whole team to flick through a range of different looks, based on the emotion of a scene. He also used the OpenFX plugin FilmConvert, which gave the entire series a grainy, filmic texture. As well as the grade, Hopkin was able to use Resolve to help complete some finishing tasks, such as occasional sky replacements and object removal. “Resolve has the speed and the flexibility to solve an increasing number of creative finishing tasks to a very high standard. In the right hands, it gets the job done on time, without compromising on production values.” The second series of Vikingane is currently being broadcast on NRK, with the first series of the English version Norsemen available now on Netflix. The second series of the English version is currently in post production. n
IN THE CONTENT-CENTRIC ERA
The reference Broadcast Management System SCHEDULING
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PRODUCTION AND POST
FLYING THE NEST In December, Cherryduck opened The Nest, a brand new creative hub designed to bring creative professionals and small production companies under one roof. James Groves speaks to Cherryduck managing director James Vellacott regarding the launch, and plans for the future
F James Vellacott, Cherryduck managing director
ormed by James Vellacott in 2009, Cherryduck is a creative video production agency developing strategy and creative for targeted video campaigns for its various clients, including Ford, Samsung, Tesco, Sky and Disney. Vellacott served as a photojournalist for Trinity Mirror for 15 years before setting up Cherryduck with his actress wife Michelle in 2009. “After trialling video with the Daily Mirror, which picked up several online channels, we set up Cherryduck,” says Vellacott. “We approached various High Street fashion brands and shot behind-thescenes films on their stills shoots.” Cherryduck quickly grew to the point that Vellacott had to leave his newspaper job. “We decided that video production was the future with the ever-increasing demand for content,” he says. “The business plan was make it an in-house film facility to allow us to sustainably work for the lower budgets demanded by the online departments at the time.” Cherryduck Studios was opened in Wapping in 2011, providing five studios for the company to shoot its content, as well as offering space for other professionals to take advantage of.
“We couldn’t have dreamed of the amount of positive feedback that both The Nest business residents and visiting clients are giving us” JAMES VELLACOTT
“Wapping was once the heart of the media district with News International and its printing presses, while Michelle and I live here, so it’s a great location for Cherryduck,” says Vellacott. “Early on, we had three other non-connected companies renting space from us and the co-working idea was proven as we all worked together on projects. We bought a 125-year lease on the studios, allowing us to just pay a mortgage rather than being at the mercy of landlords/rent and developers.” However, Cherryduck was stil growing very quickly, and it wasn’t long before it began to run out of office space. That’s where The Nest came in. “Another space came up for sale in 2016 and we bought it in February,” he explains. “It was derelict residential space and we were turned down by the council to develop it. Thankfully, we were able to lobby the council and in March 2017, it overturned its decision.” Cherryduck’s plan was again to avoid renting the site and make it “a neutral space with ‘white label’ receptionists that all residents could call their home”, says Vellacott. “It allowed us to continue the Cherryduck growth and to transparently co-work with others, leveraging all the residential creative businesses and ultimately turn The Nest in to a virtual super agency with creative, production, post production and studios (with equipment) all in one place.” In terms of content and projects held at The Nest, details are understandably scarce. Vellacott says: “Cherryduck produces both TV and online content. We have a large TV commercial in Q1 this year as well as many other TV and online films in production. The Nest also has signed a satellite TV current affairs programme that will be shot at the studios and edited in the post suites. A ‘Brit Flick’ film has also taken space to be production based at The Nest, and be post produced there too.”
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The size and facilities of The Nest also allows the resident creative businesses to bring in their clients for meetings, which aids in underwriting any of their clients delivery concerns. But how does Cherryduck go about filtering applicants? “We are always looking for the right balance of different production-based businesses, ensuring we make the business cohesion work,” says Vellacott. “We have an ad agency, a media buyer, directors, producers, DoPs, sound designers, editors, graphics, VFX and 3D artists all currently in residence and we still have more desk space available. We interview the prospective resident or business and make sure they are suitable before offering a desk licence and pass card.” Vellacott goes on to explain that this mandate is a risky one, due to the fact The Nest is offering desk
space at “vastly reduced” rates in order to rely on co-trading to make the business model sustainable. So far, however, he believes any risk has been worth it. “We couldn’t have dreamed of the amount of positive feedback that both The Nest business residents and visiting clients are giving us,” says Vellacott. “Even at this early stage, the signs are very positive with desk spaces being taken up quickly. I love to meet Cherryduck’s clients at The Nest door to watch their faces light up as they come inside.” And two months after the grand opening, Vellacott is feeling more than confident for the future of Cherryduck: “Once the model is completely refined, we plan to build more Nests with access to studios and facilities – perhaps in London or elsewhere in the UK. We are also looking further afield, throughout in Europe and the US.” n
PICTURED ABOVE: The Nest opened its doors in December 2017
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PRODUCING GREAT ART Brighton-based production company Seventh Art Productions has turned its films about the life and works of the world’s most celebrated artists into a new series for ITV. Jenny Priestley talks to executive producer Phil Grabsky about how technology has helped bring the films from the cinema to the small screen
hil Grabsky and his company Seventh Art Productions have been making arts films for over 20 years. Initially working with Channel 5 back in 1997, the company has also produced arts programming for Sky Arts before launching its Exhibition on Screen films into UK cinemas and 60 countries worldwide. Having now completed their 19th feature film, Grabsky approached ITV about turning the films into 50-minute programmes. The first series of Great Art began on ITV at the beginning of January with a five episode run and is also available on catch up. A second series was commissioned at the same time.
So, how did Grabsky go about turning each 90-minute film into a 50 minute episode? “All of the episodes are exactly 50 minutes, they go into an hour slot, but the actual amount of footage is between 49:30 and 50:00. The feature films were anywhere between 85 and 92 minutes,” he explains. “One of the things I’ve never done is patronised our audience or felt the audience couldn’t follow a storyline – I don’t have the same fear that some directors have which is that an audience has no attention span. I think that what they want is to hear intelligent people talking, see beautiful artwork beautifully shot, and actually look at it. So in the
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PRODUCTION AND POST cinema versions there is more emphasis on looking at particular paintings for longer. The television films are slightly refocused on the biography of the artist. “One of the wonders these days of the technology is that it is transferable. We made a slight tweak in the audio, we did a slightly different mix for television, but so much time goes into making sure the cinema version is graded properly, the subtitles are all in the right place, whatever the craft is they’re all transferable to television,” Grabsky continues. “The key thing was the creative process, what are we taking out? We had to take them back into post production to extract essentially the 40 minutes that wasn’t being included. I had to reacquaint myself with what was the key story and which of the scenes and elements were essential to telling that story. It is a different environment, television to cinema, you can luxuriate more in the story in the cinema than you would want to on the television. They have to be really strong 50-minute films.” Putting together a sequence of non-fiction programmes into a series can be challenging. How did Grabsky decide which of the films to include in series one? “There were a lot of elements really. We’ve got 19 films that we’ve completed and we’ve got three more in pre-production. We opened with Canaletto & The Art of Venice at the Queen’s Gallery which has only just finished at Buckingham Palace and is going to be opening soon in Edinburgh. The Michelangelo episode is a straight biography of him but is a very new film. “It’s a mix of films from our most recent cinema season to ones that might be slightly earlier. You want a variety of artists, a variety of locations. We’ve always tried very hard not to be London-centric. So it was just a case of sitting down with the 19 films and shuffling them about. Obviously we hope that this continues to a third and fourth season so we can show them all. But ITV were very good in committing to ten so we wanted to make sure that the ten were right.” Grabsky admits one of the biggest factors in the company’s move into producing films for cinemas was down to the way technology has evolved. “Changes in camera and editing technology have made it feasible both to make a certain type of film which before would have been impossible, and also to distribute it internationally. The impact of digital was hugely transformational,” he says. However, Grabsky admits sometimes technology can be disruptive to what producers are aiming to achieve: “I have to say that the technological advances over the last decade are just fantastic. I genuinely do not believe it needs to get any better, it is so good now.”
“I used to distribute on 16mm, 35mm, DVD and now when I see, from the biggest cinema to the smallest village hall, one of my films on DCP that we’ve shot in 4K, that we’ve edited on various systems (the post production is extraordinary), technology for me is a wonderful tool to help me with my storytelling. I can tell you that in 60 countries, we’re talking Azerbaijan and Uruguay and Chile and India, it would never have been possible in the past for us to be bringing a film about Cezanne or Hockney or Michelangelo to a small cinema in Venezuela. It’s absolutely brilliant! In the Cezanne film I’ve got some time lapses which were done in a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and it used to be so time consuming doing time lapse and now I can do it in what looks like a stills camera. So all the people who read TVBEurope and have been taking the technology to where it is today, I thank them!” n
PICTURED ABOVE: Phil Grabsky
“Changes in camera and editing technology have made it feasible both to make a certain type of film which before would have been impossible, and also to distribute it internationally” PHIL GRABSKY
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MATRIXSTORE TAKES MEDIAPRO TRANSATLANTIC Object Matrix recently worked with Mediapro in Spain to provide a transatlantic content collaboration. TVBEurope investigates
ediapro is a leading production company that supports 12 channels, as well as live football matches from Spain’s La Liga. With multiple departments within Mediapro, content was being accessed by different people from around the world, with each department having its own requirements to protect content and provide access to local and remote teams. Over recent years, the company has grown significantly, especially following a number of acquisitions. As it grew, more storage pools were added to handle the extra content created. The result was various pools of legacy storage that have culminated in a disjointed and complicated infrastructure. Additionally, this silo’d approach meant staff were unable to track and audit content, leading to failures in the system not being identified. Mediapro recognised this setup was a risk to efficiency and productivity, something it naturally wished to avoid. Therefore, the company needed a platform that could satisfy not only its current business requirements, but also expand along with it. COMPLEXITY OF MULTIPLE STORAGE PLATFORMS Mediapro was faced with a number of problems: n Having multiple small storage platforms after years of production n Multiple production teams, producing 12 channels simultaneously n A transatlantic network n Unable to audit files n Continuous expansion The company established its production centre back in 2008. Since then it has been growing year by year. As mentioned above, the existing set up consisted of multiple legacy storage pools, mainly as these were added as the company, and therefore its storage needs, grew.
As Mediapro expanded at a fast pace, this also involved many more members of staff from different continents, accessing large volumes of content in multiple different pools of storage. Naturally, that made things pretty complex and made it nearly impossible to get an audit trail for that content. Accessing the content was also far too complex, with many people often dipping into three or four storage pools at once and having to spend a great deal of time searching for specific items within that. Operating a transatlantic business only added to that complexity. Ultimately, Mediapro was suffering from inefficiencies, which were costing valuable time, resources and money, yet nearly impossible to solve with the existing setup. It also meant that the risk of mistakes was high and in a media environment, especially when delivering high profile content such as football games, that is not a risk any provider wants to take. “We identified that we needed to consolidate our various legacy storage pools into a more robust and scalable unified platform. Managing multiple silos of storage not only takes time and resource but also makes finding and accessing content very difficult,” says Xavi Verd, CTO and head of the Barcelona office, Unitecnic, the integration arm of the Mediapro group. UNIFIED PLATFORM STORAGE Knowing that a change was needed, Mediapro enlisted Unitecnic, to recommend and implement a solution. The first decision was whether to just grow some of the existing storage pools or whether to implement a major change. In the end, Mediapro elected for the latter, determining that it would be much easier to continue to expand with a unified object storage platform. The brief was to deliver one unified platform with global access. At the same time, it was important that any solution could easily expand according to future needs. Of course, with the production centre working 24/7, it was
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PRODUCTION AND POST also crucial that the existing workflow and infrastructure was not disrupted during the changeover. Ongoing business continuity was also important, ensuring that access to content would not be interrupted during, for example, a power outage. As with any media company, security remained a key concern. This is especially important when allowing global access to high profile content that simply mustn’t fall into the wrong hands. Mediapro selected MatrixStore, a leading digital content governance platform from Object Matrix to provide integrated and automated object storage. Unitecnic, European Object Matrix reseller with certified engineers, worked closely with Ivory, the representative for Object Matrix in Spain. Ivory has extensive knowledge and understanding of both the product and of media workflows, and was able to help with the qualification process, whilst also being on hand throughout Unitecnic’s commissioning. “We wanted to make our storage more capable. Being able to change workspaces depending on the needs of production; being able to recover accidentally deleted files. The biggest advantage was the capability to expand the storage without any hindrances,” adds Verd. MatrixStore keeps content secure whilst ensuring well-defined access controls, audit trails, and business continuity. Crucially for Mediapro, MatrixStore means that people in different locations can have instant access to the same content, even across the Atlantic. The content is also easily discoverable, making it easy to instantly access the right piece of content. All this from a simple, easy-to-use web interface, MatrixStore Vision. Nick Pearce-Tomenius, sales and marketing director, Object Matrix, comments: “As the media industry evolves, content providers are challenged with increasingly complex and global workflows. Our solutions aim to reduce some of that complexity and enable simple and efficient global collaboration.”
A GLOBAL AUDIT Mediapro has a vast workforce needing access to many formats of content, including graphics, audio and production content. This means that auditing access to content is another important area for the company. It is about understanding who has accessed content, made edits and where something went wrong in the case of failure. A decent audit trail, rather than being about pointing fingers, simply means that lessons can be learnt to avoid the same mistakes being repeated in the future. MatrixStore allows the team at Mediapro to instantly see the precise lifecycle of every piece of content within its storage, including who accessed it, what alterations were made, where it was delivered to etc. “It was important, with so many staff across the two transatlantic offices, that we were able to check on the access to storage. It is important to understand what may have gone wrong when there is human error, simply to learn from mistakes,” continues Verd. THE NEXT PHASE In the initial phase, the production teams have now been fully migrated to using MatrixStore. The teams are continuing to push the storage to the max and are fine tuning the configuration to make sure the rules and automations are set up to ensure best efficiency. With that well underway, Mediapro expects to move to phase two in Q1 2018, where the playout teams will be integrated into MatrixStore as well. “MatrixStore has allowed us to overcome our previous infrastructure challenges and also enable us to audit access and operations on data that was not possible before. This is our first phase of implementing a digital content governance platform with Object Matrix. The storage itself has given us a lot of confidence in what we are going to be able to do in the future in terms of expansion and we look forward to continuing to work with them,” concludes Verd. n
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REPORTS OF TERRESTRIAL TRANSMISSION’S DEMISE ARE SOMEWHAT OVERSTATED
By Jürgen Nies, EVP and head of broadcast and media division, Rohde & Schwarz
f you believe everything you read in the press then digital terrestrial television transmission is a dying technology. The march of IP-based distribution is unstoppable and within a relatively short period of time TV and radio transmitters will be a thing of the past. But just hang on – let’s look behind the headlines at some of the facts about terrestrial transmission networks. Without doubt, there are new distribution technologies being developed and many of these are IP-based. But still, the majority of people worldwide receive their television signals via terrestrial broadcasts. Within the metropolitan centres there exists very good cable and IP networks, but outside of the cities and major towns not – and indeed there are still some entire countries that are totally dependent on terrestrial broadcasts. In these countries and regions terrestrial transmissions are an essential means of providing the population with their TV and radio broadcasts. The simple fact is that there is no alternative communications network for TV distribution and this situation will not change within the next five to ten-year period. Also, the most efficient means of communicating the same content to very large audiences is via broadcasts. As a distribution technology cable is increasingly being replaced by IP, so it is just terrestrial and satellite that offers a way of broadcasting a channel to these very large audiences. However, satellite technology does not offer any options for portable/mobile TV, which is a big market driver. Satellite is a static reception platform requiring a fixed satellite dish, even at high bandwidth. At Rohde & Schwarz, we can see strong similarities between mobile terrestrial television networks and mobile telecommunication networks in the way that they support data communication.
For many years now there have been trials, such as DVB-H, which combine television broadcasts with mobile devices. Several technology companies, such as Qualcomm, have gone so far as to build infrastructures with network operations centres, chipsets to install in receiving devices and even content to distribute over their networks. But within the 3G era the experiment did not work, largely because the chipset was only available in relatively few smartphone models. However, there is good reason for optimism in this area. Multicastbroadcast single-frequency network (MBSFN) is a communication channel defined in the fourth-generation cellular networking standard called Long Term Evolution (LTE). The transmission mode is intended as an improvement of the broadcast capabilities of the enhanced Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service (eMBMS) service – now called FeMBMS, which can deliver services such as mobile TV using the LTE technology. In particular, LTE’s Release 14 (summer 2017) includes three major improvements that have been made to FeMBMS. These are that it facilitates pure LTE Broadcast (downlink only) cells. Also, it offers Cycle Prefixes of up to 200µs, which enables the operation of large- scale FeMBMS cells, similar to terrestrial networks. And thirdly, it provides SIM-card less communication/devices. LTE Broadcast offers simple access to standard smartphones with mobile TV content – no need for consumers to purchase specific mobile devices, which are expensive since relatively few units are sold and therefore no economies of scale exist. The FeMBMS service is based on the principles of interactive multicast, where TV content is only transmitted where there are currently viewers. FeMBMS provides better system spectral efficiency
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TECHNOLOGY than VoD over traditional cellular unicasting services, since in FeMBMS, each TV programme is only transmitted once in each cell, even if there are several viewers of that programme in the same cell. FeMBMS cells are much larger than LTE unicast cells – otherwise the probability of there being multiple viewers of the same content in the same small cell is low. MBMS and mobile TV was a failure in 3G systems, and was offered by very few mobile operators, partly because of its limited peak bit rates and capacity, not allowing standard TV video quality. This is something that LTE with eMBMS does not suffer from and especially with FeMBMS expanded to network concepts of terrestrial broadcast networks. This technological advance provides significant opportunities for many parties. For traditional broadcasters it provides a massive new market of potential viewers. And for the mobile network operators it offers the potential to provide high quality TV channels to a high number of subscribers without exceeding their installed LTE network capacity and with that blocking other data services. At Rohde & Schwarz, we have a vision of the future that is based around this development. Major new viewing audiences and all the associated commercial advertising opportunities are created in ways that can be shared by both the TV broadcaster and the mobile network operator. It can provide completely new ways that people can view major sporting and cultural events where, when and how they wish. The high power, high tower digital transmission network is an efficient resource to provide data coverage in a particular area. By combining cellular networks with larger transmission networks it is possible to create network division multiplexes – using whichever network is most appropriate to a given application at a given time. This combination of traditional terrestrial broadcast and cellular technologies offers a very powerful commercial proposition. The challenge in realising this vision is to breakdown the barriers between the terrestrial broadcast and cellular networks which have co-existed without being integrated in any way until now. This needs broadcasters and mobile network operators to work together to achieve this. Already, Rohde & Schwarz is working with most of the mobile network operators. Alongside our transmitter business, we are known as a pioneer in test and measurement: our T&M technology is used by most of the mobile network operators to support their infrastructure, monitor network throughput and assure quality of service and also quality of consumer experience throughout the distribution chain. Rohde & Schwarz is in an ideal position to bring these various companies together. So, my suggestion to those that say that terrestrial transmission is yesterday’s technology is to look again. At Rohde & Schwarz, we have a large a vibrant customer base of transmission customers. Our commitment is to support them through the journey that the next ten years presents. IP-based distribution is on the rise, but those that think that terrestrial transmission offers no business model for the future need think again. 2018 will see some fascinating new transmitter product introductions from Rohde & Schwarz and our long-term commitment is undiminished. n
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Our overriding aim is to put together a KVM system tailormade to your needs. This involves exceptional levels of consultation from the outset – and exhaustive attention to detail during and after construction. Investing in a G&D system will provide your business with tangible advantages now and into the future. Let’s make that first connection. Contact us today.
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THE CHANGING FACE OF COMMUNICATION Ofcom recently released its International Communications Market 2017 report. James Groves looks at some of the highlights
fcom’s 12th International Communications Market Report provides comparative international data on the communications sector. It compares industry structures and consumer outcomes in the UK with those in 16 comparator countries, in telecoms, TV and video, radio and audio, internet and online content, and post. UK consumers benefit from the high availability of superfast broadband, but low fibre-to-4G take-up is more advanced in the US, Korea, Japan and Australia than in Europe. Consumers not only want to connect to the internet from a fixed location, they need access when they are on the move. At the end of 2016, half of all UK mobile subscriptions were 4G services being used on a 4G device; a higher proportion than in any of the other EU5 (UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and France) countries, but lower than in a number of comparator countries, including South Korea, the US, Australia and Japan. 90 per cent of the UK’s mobile data traffic was over 4G networks in 2016, as UK consumers consumed a monthly average of 1.7GB of mobile data per head in 2016, higher than in the other EU5 countries, but much lower than in Sweden (5.7GB), South Korea (3.9GB) and the US (3.7GB). UK smartphone users spend more time accessing the internet on their mobile than users in most countries, but less than in the US. The increasing availability of high-speed mobile networks and in-home networks is creating a proliferation of ways in which people connect to the internet. Smartphones were the devices most used by consumers in all comparator countries – 75 per cent of adults in the UK used a smartphone,
comparable to most other countries but lower than in Spain (87 per cent) and Italy (85 per cent). In the UK, smartphone owners spent 62 hours on average using the internet on their device in August 2017, lower than in the US (75 hours) and France (66 hours), but higher than in Spain (61 hours), Germany (58 hours) and Italy (52 hours). The next most widely-used internet-connected device was the laptop; 66 per cent of consumers used them in the UK – significantly lower than Spain (73 per cent), Germany (72 per cent) and France (71 per cent), but higher than in the US (61 per cent). More than half of consumers in the UK (52 per cent) used a tablet, equal to Italy (51 per cent) and Spain (55 per cent) but higher than in all other comparator countries. In the UK, the use of desktop computers was lowest, at 39 per cent; this is in line with Japan and Spain and lower than in the other comparator countries. Connected televisions are commonplace in the UK and most comparator countries, and there is high interest in other smart devices. Many households also have their television connected to the internet. The survey found that internet streaming devices such as Apple TV, Chromecast and the Amazon Fire stick have highest take-up in Sweden (29 per cent) and the UK (27 per cent). Ownership of smart TVs (i.e. TVs that connect directly to the internet) were in 39 per cent of UK households, with take-up highest in Spain, at 46 per cent, followed by Italy and Germany at 43 per cent. Smart appliances such as fridges, microwaves, thermostats, home audio systems, and home security systems are now widely available, typically managed
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â€˜UK consumers benefit from the high availability of superfast broadband, but low fibre-to-4G take-up is more advanced in the US, Korea, Japan and Australia than in Europeâ€™
via an app on a smartphone. The research shows there is still quite low take-up in all the countries surveyed. Consumers in Spain are most likely to use a smart thermostat, heating or lighting controls (14 per cent, compared to six per cent of UK households), and consumers in the US are most likely to have smart speakers (ten per cent, compared to six per cent in the UK). However, there is a lot of interest in owning
smart devices â€“ more than half of UK internet users said they were interested in owning: smart thermostat, heating or lighting controls (57 per cent); smart home monitoring (58 per cent); smart appliances (56 per cent); smart speakers (53 per cent); and a car with connected features (51 per cent). There are broadly comparable levels of interest in other comparator countries. n
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DATA CENTRE NETFLIX AND AMAZON GLOBAL CONTENT SPEND, REVENUE AND SUBSCRIBERS: 2002-2016 n AMAZON n NETFIX
Netflix and Amazon global content spend, 2012-2016 (£m)
Feb Netflix starts streaming its first original, House of Cards
Jul Netflix starts streaming its first original, House of Cards
April First Amazon original series: Betas and Alpha House premiere
Jan Netflix launches in UK and Ireland
FEB Amazon Prime Video launches in UK and Germany
Sep Netflix launches in Germany and France Jan £100 million drama The Crown commissioned
Netflix and Amazon global revenue, 2012-2016 (£m)
July Amazon announces its deal with former Top Gear presenters
Sep Streaming launch in Japan, a few weeks behind Amazon Jan Netflix announces expansion into 130 new territories
Jan Amazon Prime memberships reach 54 million Dec Amazon Video expands to 200 countries worldwide
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THE EUROPEAN DESTINATION FOR THE GLOBAL AV INDUSTRY
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