#ETIA14: Tipping Into All-IP TV Delivery

STANFORD, CALIF.— Just when will the Internet be the primary delivery mechanism for TV? Depends on who you ask. Some streaming guys at the second annual Entertainment Technology in the Internet Age conference at Stanford University said it may not be far away.

There are definite signs of improved delivery, said Dr. Hui Zhang of Conviva. Zhang said his company has technology that measures, second-by-second, the quality of the video experience. Last World Cup, 1 MBps, versus multiple MBps, and twice as many online viewers this year, he said. Buffering rates have improved dramatically as well.

All that said, the Interwebs is a great big frontier with lots of moving parts.

“It’s not just about encoding and decoding,” Zhang said. “There’s a path that’s not an equal system and that nobody owns end-to-end.”

Rodolfo Vargas of EyeIO said there was a lot to learn to make over-the-top TV work, “from camera to sensor to the encoding part to the delivery network to the device to the display. Then how can we make it into a business? We’re using H.264… We have H.265, but we’re not using because of the patents.”

Dolby’s Jean-Christophe Morizur went to quality: “How can we enhance the visual experience? Fundamentally it’s the resolution and the frame rate; 4K versus high dynamic range and color gamut. We’re not locked into a codec,” a decided advantage over traditional TV providers, particularly broadcast.

Jim Helman of MovieLabs said studios are interested in higher resolution, higher dynamic range and wider color gamut—in delivering video at the range of human perception.

“It does take standards,” he said. “How do you get picture from set-top that does HDR to the TV set?”

The next HEVC iteration is supposed to have HDR support, he said. Cable has the largest pipe for IP delivery using DOCSIS, he said, “but it will be challenging to get some of these capabilities deployed over cable networks at the speed that it can now be done on the Internet. “

Ian Blaine of thePlatform said, “IP is clearly a faster flywheel. If you don’t support services that embrace iPads, game consoles and other things, you’ll become increasingly uncompetitive.”

ATSC now defines what TV is, said eScreenMedia’s Colin Dixon, who moderated the discussion. “But as we move online, it’s not just about television, but video, data and behaviors wrapped around that experience. Or is it just about the ‘TV experience?’”

It’s more, Helman said.

“On interactive front, who wants to scroll through a 300-page epg? As soon as you go online, you’re not constrained by typical delivery methods,” he said. “It’s the Web, stupid.”

Dixon pressed: “We know what it means to create in ATSC. Do we know what it is to create on the Internet?”

Helman said the business was in “a very early phase of finding out what the ideal online consumer entertainment experience is.”

Dolby’s Morizur said it was time to online video providers to attend to audio.

“OTT video has approached Blu-ray quality,” he said. “A quality experience is what you hear as well. The next frontier for OTT may be the audio immersive experience. Audio has to be an integral part of that conversation.”

Redefining the experience of viewing might include multiple audio tracks, e.g. players on the field or basic tutorial, he said.

Google Glass. Yes, Dixon said that.

Zhang said Google Glass probably would lend itself more to controlling the experience rather than having it.

“It’s hard to imagine watching TV on my glasses,” he said.