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Live events are the holy grail

Gavin Mann, global broadcast lead at Accenture, examines the current state of the broadcast industry, and the key themes expected to dominate this year's NAB show which opens today in Las Vegas.

Gavin Mann, global broadcast lead at Accenture, examines the current state of the broadcast industry, and the key themes expected to dominate this year’s NAB Show 

The broadcast industry has transformed beyond recognition in recent years. The most forward-thinking companies, from traditional broadcasters to aggressive new players, have embraced digital technologies while setting aside old business and delivery models in their quest to deliver an engaging multi-channel customer experience.

As the battle to win the loyalty of the digital consumer heats up, this year’s NAB in Las Vegas will be the setting for a number of debates around the best ways to understand and attract audiences, monetise viewing and drive new revenue streams. We expect the show to focus on new products and services driven by two industry-wide trends: intense competition that reaches across geographic boundaries and the relentless focus on optimising the consumer experience.

Competition across geographies

Increased global competition is a key feature of today’s broadcast industry and is driving innovative new developments. For example, international over-the-top (OTT) providers’ ventures into new markets are forcing local service providers to respond to the competitive threat by investing heavily in their localised billing and content, which is a challenge for bigger providers trying to expand internationally. The result has been the release of a host of new flexible streaming platforms adaptable to local regions. Competition is also driving 4K strategies, as global broadcasters and service providers look to differentiate themselves with technologies that better manage bandwidth.

And when it comes to global mass audiences, live events are proving to be the holy grail for broadcasters. These events completely buck the trend towards fragmentation among viewing audiences; for example, when fierce rivals India and Pakistan faced off recently in the Cricket World Cup, the game attracted more than one billion viewers worldwide. So far broadcasters are proving undeterred by eye-watering pricing for rights, and we expect to see many promoting live, top-tier events as a distinct value-add over new digital competitors at NAB. Social media connectivity and tools for monetising the live viewing experience will also be in demand.

Enhancing the customer experience

The ability to meet fast-evolving consumer demands when it comes to content delivery is more important than ever, and the broadcast industry is finding imaginative ways to respond to the challenge. NAB visitors will get a flavour of new services emerging through partnerships between OTT and pay-TV providers, offering consolidated interfaces that cut back on multiple devices, remotes and subscription plans. These developments are inspired by the vision of a ‘post-bundle’ world in which consumers can choose content for themselves quickly and easily.

Cloud services will also be under the spotlight at NAB as broadcasters rely more than ever on cloud computing as a quick and innovative means to invent, test and deploy content. Cloud solutions are playing a key role in enabling broadcasters to stay at the cutting edge of industry developments and compete with OTT providers. In the past, the technology was used almost exclusively to underpin video content delivery, allowing for more flexible cost models to handle peaks in demand without having to over-allocate infrastructure costs. However cloud is now offering new capabilities to power catch up services, with metadata relayed directly from the cloud when a consumer clicks on a particular date or piece of content. What’s more, cloud is providing the ability to scale according to demand and generating new insights to drive personalisation, service development, customer experience and one-to-one relationships.

This relationship with the customer is key as audience understanding becomes the foundation of broadcasting. Audience analytics are now essential in providing broadcasters and advertisers with insight into consumer behaviours, trends and dynamics over a wide set of devices. At NAB we will see tools on display for pulling and leveraging such analytics in real time via smarter ad-server and content recommendation engines.

It’s clear that consumer experience optimisation is now driving many elements of a broadcaster’s business: from content decision-making to implementing new services and advertising operations. This trend will continue well beyond NAB as broadcasters strive to seize the initiative in the battle for consumer attention and engagement.