SINGAPORE--BroadcastAsia, held concurrently with CommunicAsia and EnterpriseIT at the Marina Bay Sands, returns to Singapore June 17-20. As the show falls more-or-less midway between the big US trade show (NAB) and Europe’s IBC Exhibition, it is a good ‘midpoint’ to reflect on where the TV industry is heading.
The event has a strong conference, and a glance at the program shows several very real technologies and trends front-and-centre. Some are established yet evolving, like multiscreen and OTT delivery. Some----like the use of cloud technologies in a variety of applications and the use of IP in the broadcast facility---- are very much part of our future, if on a variety of timelines. And finally, technologies around 4K and UHDTV are a bit farther off for many, but still attracting a lot of attention.
In a world where Europe, the United States and Japan are all facing mixed economic prospects, the Asia/Pacific region served by Broadcast Asia remains a good growth market for many manufacturers. The region is also perhaps the most diverse in the world in terms of the application of technology. Everything from massive analogue terrestrial systems to greenfield DVB-T2 broadcasting and OTT will exist side-by-side for quite a while longer in Asia/Pacific.
One country that will likely have a fair amount of analogue transmission for quite a while longer is Philippines. A quick glance at the Broadcast Asia conference program also shows at least two Philippines OTT forays on the docket, joining a plethora of regional OTT profiles and panellists. Gone are the days where European or North American case studies would be at the forefront of an Asia/Pac conference program. In 2014, local services have now been operating long enough to be worthy of study. In some cases the region is a leader in deploying new technologies.
But conference highlights will go beyond local examples to broader topics as well. Tapan Shatapathy, Head of Content Management Solutions for Ericsson, will take part in a panel discussion on ‘Is OTT the Future of TV?’ and he will also deliver a presentation on ‘How to Effectively Market and Monetise Your OTT Services.’
“Consumer demand for OTT services is growing at a startling rate,” said Shatapathy. “With the increasing penetration of IP enabled devices, such as tablets and smartphones … TV service providers must now leverage new, pioneering strategies in order to effectively market and monetize their OTT services.”
Another Ericsson contribution to the conference is from Fabio Murra, Head of TV Compression Marketing. He’ll deliver a presentation on 4K UHDTV.
Murra said he’ll discuss the status of the technology and the overall UHDTV ecosystem readiness to deliver live and linear 4K UHD content to the home. “Live content (including sports broadcasting) will be key to the uptake and monetisation of this technology, but it will require all elements of the ecosystem to be available to deliver a ‘true’ immersive experience to the consumer, and provide an experience they are willing to pay for.”
Murra’s mention of the importance of live sport content in relation to 4K uptake is interesting, as Broadcast Asia always runs in June, and every four years it coincides with World Cup Football. A decade or so ago, several pubs in Singapore made a splash by having HD coverage of matches piped in as a promotional. A quick web search for ‘4K World Cup Singapore’ doesn’t show any such demos this year, but these projects are sometimes announced late. We’ll see if any of the 4K footage captured in Brazil ends up on screen in Singapore this year.
Unlike multiscreen or OTT expansion, few think that 4K will be a big money-maker or ‘must-have’ technology in the short term. 4K is getting more respect than 3D ever received, but some observers remind us to stick to fundamentals.
“4K is certainly the buzz word of the moment, but in reality I think that what is occupying greater day-to-day focus for broadcasters is driving down costs and achieving greater efficiency from systems,” said Chris Billington, regional manager for Pixel Power. “From a customer perspective, availability of content on multiple devices means providers are looking for ways to deliver their content over alternative mechanisms such as IP.”
Billington added that because many channels have yet to make the upgrade to HD, he’d be interested to see if “the transitions continue, or stall in favour of waiting for the 4K train to arrive.”
As for cutting costs and doing more with less Billington gave as an example a bit of recent Pixel Power business: “At the end of last year we provided the New Zealand Racing Board with a Channel in a Box system and an integrated Master Control and graphics system. This allowed them to fully automate their two television channels, enabling them to broadcast a combination of live content and media files from around the world, 24 hours a day.”
Andrew Tan, Director of Sales for Ross Video Asia Pacific, echoed Billington’s reminder to remember day-to-day issues at a trade show. While noting that Ross’ established Carbonite and new Acuity switchers are 4K ready, there are more basic ways to make and save money today.
Tan said automated production control can move customers from a traditional manual workflow in a frenzied production studio with at least 6-8 persons in the room, to a modern studio with two calm operators. “Our OverDrive Automated Production Control system enables the studio to be more flexible and react to live changes faster, with fewer errors,” said Tan.
What other subjects will be big on the floor and in the conference halls? Certainly IP in the broadcast facility will be big, and other core issues such as workflow management, file-based infrastructures, implementing Social Media and DVB issues are all prominent in the program.