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From proprietary hell to just another industry

How technology will impact broadcasting in 2019

Finally, through the eager adoption of cloud services, IP and IT solutions, AI, 5G and advanced voice apps, the industry formerly known as broadcasting has joined all industries from motor, to medical, to banking, in the use of many common technologies. This fascinating evolution has magnified the significance of all those technology trends, and gives media empires the chances to learn or lead as time passes.

We have almost streamed past SDI, the last great standard to keep us cocooned for so long in multiple standards and formats. We have emerged from many a proprietary hell, thanks in large part to industry groups including the EBU, DPP, DVB, SMPTE, HbbTV, AIMS, IABM and the Alliance for Open Media. New year initiatives to welcome will be a low latency DASH protocol for streaming, the JPEG XS low latency codec, which could make the handling of video over IP easier, and coming extensions of SMPTE ST2110 to take it into OB vans, covering active uncompressed video transports, and providing a standard for delivery timing for uncompressed active video.

2018 has been a re-think and re-positioning year with media companies saying that the three things topping their intentions are creating media factories, moving to an OPEX culture, and writing many more of their own software apps in-house. It was the year that UK pay-TV subs were eclipsed by streaming subscription incomes. The people who saw AI as getting way more sophisticated every single day just upped the hype.

We saw UHD moved from the slow lane thanks in large part to HDR but not the several standards, but what of HFR? It looks mighty good, but without a monitor able to display high frame rates for reference purposes no one can gather if it is worth all the effort in the first place. We could also see the agonies of chief executives having to flip many long-standing companies on their heads to answer the survival demand of ‘open platform’. Those execs then found that subscription is the fastest growing part of their business. They are up against newer, no-legacy companies who take no prisoners, and enjoy re-writing the rules.

Giving the final OK

One change that will have a profound effect on the industry is the arrival of ingenious companies from the medicine and motor industries as exhibitors at IBC, and if they come in numbers they could offset the heavy consolidation we have seen. They have proven technologies that can work just as well in media. So expect some media companies to look at other industries too. They arrive as all broadcasters intend to advance from using AI in managed situations to deploying it across the length of their content eco systems. AI may be a natural evolution, but how many people have to lose their jobs? Perhaps all bar the one person sitting the other side of the AI processes to give something the final OK. It may be job creative in the aspect of being a new way to instigate software, which presupposes company software teams will hire AI expertise.

The one big problem to resolve with any solution is the awesome amounts of extra, unstructured data about content that AI presents to you. Techniques to deal with this are emerging from the likes of IBM, but unstructured data is tough to manage, and sometimes this also comes from social media. It is worth it because AI enables you to leverage cognitive services to analyse the essence of any content – maybe face or scene recognition – and this kicks in with machine learning in the way you search a library for this content as indicated. Machine learning follows video analysis, and AI will have a huge role in trouble shooting on networks.

The cloud has long exemplified the switch to OPEX, with people graduating from server to thinking agile, multiple microservices on one platform. And testing new services via the cloud is so incredibly cheap compared to buying new kit to do testing. Cloud will be about parking tons of content and initiating various processes against it: the big attraction is editing full res content from anywhere.

What of 5G? It is tantalisingly close, and 90 per cent plus of its impact will be within other industries. It is the blinding bandwidth we crave plus a million things more. It is a boost to the interaction with consumers and enables the desire for ever-closer personalisation. Therein may lie a dangerous narrowing of taste and mind, so one to many must remain a big option.

The biggest smiles

Once every media company has moved to IP to enjoy the promise of software defined facilities that let them move in and out of the cloud as desired, tons of off-the shelf IT hardware will stand where we used to have one-inch tape machines. Once 90 per cent have adopted cloud in 2020, the adoption rate for AI will have marched from 15 per cent to 80 per cent.

2019 and 2020 will see 4K with HDR arrive big time, and 8K further develop as the production medium for a 4K-based consumer market all over the world. With Netflix spending $13 billion on 700 exclusively licensed TV shows, what would a few 8K productions do to that budget? NHK is already delivering 8K content, but what the hell do the viewers use for home screens?

Content production for all markets and all industries plus places of worship and the military will multiply by as much as 20 times up to 2020, so IMF versioning will be a huge factor. The biggest smiles will continue be found on the faces of lens and camera vendors, who have been grinning for the past six years, and will be grinning for the next six at least.

Now armed with operational efficiency thanks to IP and the agility that naturally follows – a journey that took four years – media companies will jump into AI, 5G and voice. That will come out of home apps and march into cloud and library links, and into postproduction. And cyber security will change its reach by becoming a micro services factor.

Some things that we thought would never change – financial pressuresmrequiring content creators and distributors to constantly find efficiencies and cost savings – must ease when 5G and AI and machine learning have their impacts. No matter what, the key word of 2019 will again be collaboration: it will be born of the many organisations, that consist largely of vendors, all trying to do the right thing for end users. The EBU and DPP were the winners this year.

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