Accenture Predicts Big Year for ATSC 3.0, VR

NEW YORK—Accenture recently released its predictions for things to watch for at the 2016 NAB Show, noting seven topics ranging from newly released virtual reality technology to ad blockers. TV Technology recently spoke with Accenture Executive Gavin Mann about their prognostications.

This year could see a big step forward for over-the-air television broadcasting with the development of ATSC 3.0, the next-generation broadcast standard, according to Accenture. In late March, the Advanced Television Systems Committee, tasked with developing ATSC 3.0, approved the bootstrap component of the standard. Although this marks the first part to reach standard status, it’s probably not the last for this year, with Accenture reporting that more elements of ATSC 3.0 are expected to be approved in 2016. ATSC 3.0 will make broadcasters more competitive with major digital providers like Netflix. “ATSC 3.0 will be the big disruptor for which this industry has been clamoring,” Accenture said in its report.

Gavin Mann

Also grabbing headlines recently was the release of the Oculus Rift virtual reality platform, just one of many components that has Accenture predicting VR as another major trend for 2016. The NAB Show is planning its own virtual reality pavilion at this year’s show, and Mann says “without doubt, it is going to be an increasingly important part of the overall ecosystem of consumer consumption of various format types.”

Despite all the buzz surrounding the new format, Mann does not see it as a replacement to TV, but instead, views it as a tool for future storytellers that is not yet at its end state. “What you see in the first innovation cycle is people want to show how it works,” said Mann, “but I think the future will be more interesting than that.”

The report also indicates the importance of delivering digital content, with Accenture pointing primarily to sports, and how networks’ efforts to maintain exclusivity don’t always succeed. As an example, the Accenture report described “the expansion of sports content on mobile devices and the Internet,” including the NFL’s recent partnership with Twitter on exclusive streaming rights for 10 games during the upcoming regular season.

Developments like this, as well as the emergence of OTT streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, have led many to fear for cable’s future over the last few years. However, Accenture is firmly in the camp that cable is not dead yet. “This is not the year when cable is about to die,” said Mann. “Cable is in a healthy place. Albeit, we are seeing subscription numbers go down, but it’s not going at a rate at a rate of change where the industry won’t respond to that. Again, it’s changing, but it’s not falling off a cliff.”

Accenture’s remaining predictions were that “super platforms” would help create new live broadcasters, specifically referring to services like “Facebook Live,” which allows users to watch and stream live video from mobile devices, and how such videos could soon be used by news outlets; the invasion of ad blockers threatening the digital advertising industry; and the emergence of data driven broadcast/video business.

If Accenture’s predictions come true, it certainly sounds like it will be a busy year for the media industry, but as Mann pointed out, “pace of change is faster than ever, fueled by consumer’s expectations increasing faster than ever,” calling the current state of the industry “a modern renaissance period for content."