Zenterio have just returned from the IBC show in Amsterdam, so now is a good time to reflect on the event, and the changes in the market that were apparent there.
The show this year was the best attended ever. The organisers have released figures showing a headline attendance figure of 55,796 for the six days of the conference and exhibition. It certainly felt bigger and busier than we’ve seen before.
So, as a leading provider of technologies and services for TV client devices, what relevant trends did we observe at the show?
Pay TV operators around the world are launching over-the-top (OTT) subscription video-on-demand (SVoD) services on an almost daily basis either as a standalone product aimed at only their online consumers, or as a service that can in addition be integrated with their broadcast pay TV offering via the set-top box. The result of this is that many companies at IBC were announcing new additions and modifications to their product families to support this market. However, owing to the fragmented structure of the OTT technology ecosystem, it seems that many of these solutions have to be combined with other vendors’ solutions to allow a full OTT TV service to be launched. As a consequence, operators need to be careful in selecting their integration partners.
One advantage of OTT is that services are available anywhere there is internet access, and on any connected device, which naturally leads to an increasing emphasis on video client usability across all the possible screens. At the show, we were demonstrating our JetUI multiscreen user interface framework, and there was much talk about how the mobile and web experience that OTT has made commonplace has also changed expectations of how interaction should take place on the television screen. Traditional grid-based EPGs with clumsy remote controls are starting to look dated as well as not providing the real estate for the multiple sources of content that are required today. Operators are looking for a “develop once deploy anywhere” solution, to minimise R&D and maintenance effort, and to provide a consistent look-and-feel across all devices. Intuitive design and personalisation were the key messages.
Another area where there was increased activity was in the collection of data on viewer behaviour – how subscribers are interacting with the TV service. Generating the raw data is relatively straightforward for companies that offer client software, as Zenterio does, but getting the full value out of the treasure that is contained within requires specific expertise. For example, one route to monetization is to mine the data to create subscriber lists that can be used to target promotions through the EPG – something we make easy with our Zenterio Engage interactive advertising product.
Of course, this is not the only way to exploit the ‘big data’. Owing to their large subscriber bases, pay TV operators have access to a much larger sample size than is available to the TV rating agencies. If they collect this data in an easily useable form they have ownership of a more accurate and hence more valuable resource than is available elsewhere. It is a resource that can be traded with the advertising industry and provides a useful revenue upside for minimum investment.
Recommendation and discovery, to help consumers find content and aid retention, are more examples. It is clear that we are only at the beginning of where data analytics can take us.
Moving on to some of the TV technology trends at the show, it was obvious that 4K Ultra HD is already here, and high dynamic range (HDR) is on its way, though there are issues to resolve around the choice of format.
More for the future, we saw a lot of virtual reality (VR) headsets, with a number of cool demos based on immersive 3D video and 3D audio. Despite the technical advances, it seems that the industry is still struggling to identify the real driver for mass adoption. Having said that, 360° video, although not true VR, does appear to be carving out some useful niches, particularly on mobile devices.
These trends were just some of the things that were evident at IBC. With 1800 exhibitors it would be impossible to cover everything that was there in a short post. IBC’s global theme was transformation and it is true that the industry is indeed being transformed by the increased connectivity that is now available to both content providers and their consumers.
Zenterio’s aim is to continue to extend its range of products and services to match this market evolution, ensuring that pay TV operators are always able to take maximum advantage of the opportunities wherever they arise.