As the year draws to a close and 2019 comes into focus, what themes and developments can we expect to dominate the broadcast industry next year? Will AI be making TV shows? Will the world marvel at Disney’s new streaming service? Or will Brexit stop anything from mattering either way? We ask experts from across the industry for their views and predictions.
One area set to impact almost every aspect of life is AI, which is already making waves in broadcasting, for instance by improving algorithms to provide more targeted user recommendations. But 2019 will see an expansion in AI’s role in content production, as David Kulczar, senior product manager at IBM Watson Media, explains: “In 2019, we will begin to see broadcast newsrooms experiment with AI technology to streamline how they organise and source archival video footage – especially when it comes to content curation for breaking news. With tagged metadata, video producers can quickly search for archived video to augment developing stories, therefore streamlining the production of breaking news content so it reaches communities in need as quickly as possible.”
“BBC Four took on an experiment which saw them attempt to create a programme using AI,” adds Chris Wood, CTO at Spicy Mango. “It wasn’t a huge success in terms of providing a watchable TV show, but it does highlight how AI can start to develop in broadcast beyond recommendation features. Machine learning now forms the backbone of many semi-automated subtitling systems and as these algorithms get better they will also get faster allowing for near real-time subtitling with even less human intervention.”
Even scarier than machines learning is the prospect of Brexit, whose impact on broadcasters is still unknown. “It’s going to be a dominant theme for at least the next two years and UK-based broadcasters will have to apply for broadcast licences elsewhere in Europe in case they need to, but in the short term, there is unlikely to be a mass exodus,” predicts Wood. “In the long term, there will probably remain a mutual recognition between the UK and EU of broadcast licences in some form, providing the industry can up its lobbying ability. For the moment, however, the industry is steeped in uncertainty.”
“For now, it seems the impact will be significant and profound,” argues Paolo Pescatore, tech, media and telco analyst. “The UK has one of the most vibrant production communities. Therefore, it will be challenging for the UK to keep/recruit top talent. For consumers there will undoubtedly be restrictions on content portability. Then there are areas such as funding and the need to secure visas when filming in the EU. Conversely a weaker pound will make it cheaper for global production houses to produce in the UK.”
As TVBEurope reported, Disney is planning to launch its own streaming service in 2019, a project that also involves pulling its content from Netflix. Kulczar predicts the effect of such a move on existing OTT services: “As the availability of licensed content dwindles, streaming services today are doubling down on original content to drive engagement. In the coming year, the use of AI technology to aggregate video and viewer data points will be influential in creating the next hit. We might even see M&E companies using their SVoD services as incubators and test markets for new content. Based on how these shows perform, M&E companies will be able to determine which content they should invest in and push into new channels and markets.”
Will more companies follow in Disney’s footsteps and launch OTT services of their own? “Over the last couple of years, we have seen a number of publishers launch OTT services,” explains Tom Williams, CEO at Ostmodern. “From Condé Nast to Vice, there has been a growth in brands which once would have focused solely on text – perhaps before they were dabbling in video and audio – but are now launching separate video platforms with hours of new original content. 2019 will see an acceleration of publishers creating new OTT services, whether they offer niche or mainstream content. An increasing number of publishers will create platforms which attract consumers already using VoD products. This will mean that some publishers will take away much of their audiovisual content from social media platforms.”