The annual National Association of Broadcaster’s show (NAB) kicks off this weekend in Las Vegas. While Cable Show has seen its demise (branded as INTX for a few years), NAB has grown in importance with recent years covering innovations in drones. Additionally, it helps the industry coalesce around the transition to IP production, as well as the implications of software-defined video (SDV) within the broadcast domain. 2017 promises to be an exciting year, with the continuation of some of these themes, as well as showcasing some new transformative technologies.
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The annual National Association of Broadcaster’s show (NAB) kicks off this weekend (April 22 to April 27) in Las Vegas. While Cable Show has seen its demise (branded as INTX for a few years), NAB has grown in importance with recent years covering innovations in drones. Additionally, it helps the industry coalesce around the transition to IP production, as well as the implications of software-defined video (SDV) within the broadcast domain. 2017 promises to be an exciting year, with the continuation of some of these themes, as well as showcasing some new transformative technologies.
Key themes at NAB 2017 will include service velocity enabled by IP workflows, low-latency live video, 360° Broadcast workflow, analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), and content protection services.
Themes of NAB 2017
Key themes at NAB 2017 will include:
Service Velocity Enabled by IP workflows: IP- and cloud-based technologies provide abstractions around an infrastructure equipment-heavy market. Technology suppliers and integrators such as Comcast Technology Solutions, Tata Communications, and Imagine Communications are taking this comprehensive approach to broadcaster conversations, looking to move the conversation away from speeds and feeds, and to a broader discussion of how workflows can be built to support emerging business needs. Verizon Digital Media Services (VDMS) is launching the Media Xperience Studio, the most concrete and comprehensive platform meeting this need.
Low-latency live video: Early over-the-top (OTT) services (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video) were synonymous with video-on-demand (VOD). The launch of light pay TV packages, also called virtual multichannel video programming distributors (vMVPD’s), as well as an increasing interest in simulcast content, has pushed the needs of live OTT broadcasting platforms. Historical latencies (i.e., Superbowl 2014) were nearly 50 to 60 seconds behind broadcast feeds. Net Insight’s Sye, Akamai’s Media Services Live, and Harmonic all have new or improved low-latency streaming products at the show.
360° Broadcast Workflow: Last year at NAB, we saw only a few of the first 360° video pieces of content. Now, dozens of shorts are out and most major studios are investing in a content team. Early live 360° video has been syndicated out, commonly to a single platform. However, 360° broadcast workflows are still nascent. Camera manufacturers from high-end to low-end, such as Nokia OZO, 360Rize, and GoPro will both feature higher levels of integration (moving from rigs to cameras, in some cases), as well as featuring tighter integration from camera through broadcast. Companies such as Visbit and Bitmovin will focus specifically on 360° formats and device reach challenges, as others such as VDMS, Akamai, and NeuLion will show at minimum distribution of 360° content.
Analytics and AI: Descriptive analytics—a dashboard that lets you review key operational data—will be showcased by most vendors as part of their solutions. Indeed, operators have begun to ensure that multiple teams are leveraging better data as part of decision making, with key business applications including quality of experience (delivery analytics), recommendations (driving content consumption around business needs), consumption and upsell (driving monetization and churn), monetization (managing inventory and optimizing yield of advertising-based inventory), purchasing and forecasting (creating a closed loop with consumption and recommendations), and piracy prevention (addressing piracy through softer mechanisms such as password sharing, device monitoring, etc.)
At NAB this year, descriptive analytics will become table stakes in the analytics game. Vendors such as Akamai stepped beyond descriptive analytics to optimizations and machine learning (ML), enabling real-time routing around Internet outages. Vendors such as Cisco, Nagra, and Verimatrix are discussing the aggregation of data from multiple systems together to provide a single data lake, or comprehensive cross-linked data repository, with business rules. Microsoft Cognitive Services, IBM Watson, as well as startups such as Valossa, will show AI applied to video analysis within media toolchain.
Content Protection Services: Internet redistribution of content both on social platforms and dedicated pirate IPTV services, new opportunities to launch international revenue-generating services based on historically regional content, and new business initiatives (i.e., premium or early release VOD) have all shifted the dialog around piracy prevention. Content owners have increasingly realized that they will need to take more of a direct role in piracy prevention rather than using contracts to put the burden on their distributors. Irdeto led piracy prevention dialog for some time, but Nagra improved its products and service integration through parent-company Kudelski’s acquisition of watermarking specialist NexGuard (formerly Civolution), and organizational changes with sister-company Kudelski Security. Nagra announced piracy prevention contracts and wins with international content distributor IBCAP and DISH Network.
An Exciting Time for the Media Industry
All of those major announcements, however, may bury the real excitement lurking around the edges of NAB. Video can now be packaged and delivered economically to most consumers with an infinite variety of packing options. OTT Internet video distribution is no longer simply a business model for those without network assets. Mobile carriers, cable MSOs (multi-system operators), and satellite operators are all using OTT technologies to improve their products and reach wider audiences. Content companies are rapidly bringing new services online to better monetize content holdings. Business and technology operations are able to scale down team sizes and improve efficiency through IP-driven workflows.
More importantly, however, there is excitement about immersive content enabled by virtual reality (VR). Light field cameras accurately capture scenes, which can enable user-driven exploration and will blur the lines between filmed characters and animation. VR experiences will move beyond linear playback with 3 degrees of freedom (3DOF) to those with 6 degrees of freedom (6DOF) in which consumers can explore the space without feeling like they are stuck in a box.