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BroadcastAsia reflects a time of change

During June, many in the broadcast sector will be heading to Singapore for BroadcastAsia. One cannot but notice that CommunicAsia, running in parallel at an adjacent venue, is much larger. Some “broadcast” vendors have even opted to exhibit at CommunicAsia rather than the broadcast show. This only reinforces the fact that the big interest in the region is mobile communications, with broadcast coming very much second. Of course, convergence has blurred the boundaries, and the split between the two shows is as much an issue of space at the venues rather than a desire to separate them; until recently they were in immediately adjacent venues.

As the processes and business of broadcast have split into content production and content distribution, the latter part has very much embraced the technologies of the communications sector. Sitting across the two sectors is TV Everywhere. As 4G and LTE rolls out across the world, and fiber to the curb spreads to more homes, multiplatform delivery is becoming essential for media and entertainment brands, from the multinationals all the way down to local TV.

The upside of TV Everywhere for the viewer is choice, but there is also a downside. To provide instant gratification — watching a program at a moment's notice — a sophisticated CDN is required to deliver the programming. The content delivery systems that can serve on-demand must be affordable to the viewer, and profitable for the operator and content creator. Contrary to the view held by some Web users, content is not free to produce or deliver. Someone has to pay for the fiber, network routers, DSLAMS, edge servers and cellular networks. The growing OTT market is showing that if an aggregator provides a product at a reasonable price, then subscribers will come.

The content will be delivered via a mix of fiber, copper, LTE and 4G, Wi-Fi — whatever is available to connect the viewing device. As OTT usage rises, congestion will only increase. Fiber is cost-effective in densely populated urban areas, but wireless spectrum suffers from heavy demand. In contrast, in rural areas it becomes more difficult to amortize fiber, especially for small communities, but the demands on spectrum are much less than in metropolitan areas, where the explosion of mobile devices is putting pressure on spectrum.

One question central to this puzzle is how much will the public pay via subscription or PPV, versus how much advertising will they stand. For the operator, the future of advertising looks fuzzy. Will social media and search soak advertising budgets dry? How will the mix of advertising spending evolve? Online is already taking a large slice of the cake.

Brands remain an important consideration. A cord-cutter is comparing the value of cable and IPTV versus OTT brands. The choice of content on offer and, for many, the QoS are both factors to consider. The brand is all-important; viewers know what to expect from Disney or Discovery. That said, they also know what to expect from a brand like YouTube. What they choose to watch is another matter.

The traditional broadcaster, airing an eclectic mix of news and varied entertainment, could become an anachronism. It all depends upon the strength of the broadcaster's brand. One of the biggest shifts has been interactivity, driven by social media. This dictates a return connection, and the current kludge is to use a second screen. Where television differs from mobile devices is that viewing can be a group experience, whereas mobile viewing is generally one-to-one. The second screen neatly bridges the group in the room with the social interaction of the solitary user.

Ten years from now, I am sure the media landscape will be dramatically different. The expectations of viewers have changed, and as the younger get older, their wants from an entertainment system will be different.

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