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As the telecommunication industry starts deployments of 5G, players in the ecosystem are exploring how to implement new products and services to take advantage of the capacity and reliability that 5G networks offer. As one vertical that can take advantage of 5G networks, the media & entertainment industry has experienced recent fundamental changes, with the development of video streaming services and changing consumer behavior in consuming media.

As the industry becomes highly competitive, broadcasters and content producers need to make sure they meet consumers’ demands, because expectations for live content source have changed. Live content was traditionally and primarily consumed from traditional broadcast TV platforms; however, today’s consumers expect to access live programs from any service they are using, regardless of broadcast or streaming platforms. As a result, content producers and broadcasters need to produce more content, but in a shorter production timeframe and with fewer resources.

Who is Leading Video Content Production with 5G?

Various connectivities, from fiber-optic to satellite and radio links, are used for the transmission of live video from outdoor events to the production facility. Bonded cellular has been the technology of choice when content production occurs in a connectivity-challenged location. The advancements brought by 5G, such as high bandwidth and low latency, will improve the 3G/4G enabled cellular bonding technology, which is widely used for live production. Video production solution providers, such as AVIWEST, Dejero, and Live U are starting to integrate 5G into their video transmission products.

Trials of video production over the 5G network have also begun in markets in Asia, Europe, and North America. Most recently, the Seoul Broadcasting System deployed LiveU’s 5G integrated encoding and transmission solutions for live coverage of Korea’s election. Chinese equipment vendors ZTE and Huawei have also tested live production of outdoor events via 5G networks. Broadcasters such as BT Sports, NBC Sports, and ITN TV are trialing video production over 5G networks as well.

Overcoming Challenges to Deployment

Due to the costs associated with outside broadcast production, dedicated connections between the event location and studio are established in order to support multi-gigabits bandwidth for remote production. However, such dedicated connections are usually limited to metropolitan areas or some event venues, such as stadiums. Satellite links and other point-to-point microwave links can be used as alternatives; however, there are challenges like the costs associated with satellite and concerns regarding spectrum scarcity with the microwave links.

While the 5G network can support the higher bandwidth and lower latency capability for video production, network performance can be challenging when shared by multiple users and applications. Fluctuations in bandwidth, depending on local traffic conditions, can create a negative impact on video transmission. In addition, sharing bandwidth over the public network may not be enough when transmitting lightly compressed video from the remote production site to the studio. 5G networking slicing is expected to play an important role in providing guaranteed QoS, which is critically important in terms of bandwidth and latency, and required for high-value content production such as sports.

Network operators can take advantage of network slicing to offer differentiated network services for content production. Operators need to perform collaboration with different parties in the value chain to meet the requirement in the industry. Partnerships between network operators and broadcasters or third-party players to provide dedicated access to locations such as stadiums can provide new business models and revenue-generating opportunities for different players.

Considering the cost, complexity, and availability of dedicated connections between production sites and studios, broadcasters have been using alternate connectivity for remote production. Media organizations have been using cellular networks for transmitting live video for news gathering, special event coverage, and many outdoor events. Bonded cellular technology has been helpful for achieving higher bandwidth over the mobile network, enabling video contribution over the mobile network.

Solutions and Recommendations

Providing 5G network slicing directly to broadcasters and content producers could be challenging for network operators because operators will be competing with existing connectivity solution providers focusing on broadcast and remote productions. These rival groups usually have a deep understanding of the business requirements, as well as strong relationships with the broadcasters. Operators will need to have strategic business models around how to monetize the technology.

Network operators may choose a business model to provide Network Slice Instances (NSIs) to connectivity solution providers, supporting the required network quality for content production. Connectivity solution providers can offer Network Slices-as-a-Service to broadcasters and content producers.

Operators can choose from subscription-based, pay-as-you-go, or differentiated pricing models depending on the service type. Subscription-based and pay-as-you-go models are good options when selling directly to content producers. Differentiated pricing models can be applied when providing network slicing types of connectivity. Differentiated pricing models enable matching supply and demand by allowing customers to pay for their customized needs.

These findings are from ABI Research’s New Opportunities for 5G in Content Production application analysis report, as part of the company’s Video and Cloud research service, which includes research, data, and ABI Insights.