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Tropical clouds

I have just returned from BroadcastAsia, and over a weekend have reflected on the show. It is inherently different from NAB and IBC in a number of ways. First, the satellite and telecoms guys are split away to CommunicAsia at the nearby venue, the Sands Marina Bay. Part of the same group that owns the Venetian, NAB visitors would not feel out of place in the Sands convention center in Singapore. The casino itself has to be seen to be believed, with its lofty skypark spanning three accommodation towers.

Getting the shuttle bus to the Sands to see the other show had an element of déjà vu — the days when the LVCC South Hall was being rebuilt. Back in the broadcast show, the setting is more conventional. A good mix of vendors represented global vendors, alongside the local resellers. As is usual at shows, I always find it strange how many stands there are from little-known vendors. Who are their customers? We know that fewer than 20 big players dominate the broadcast market, yet there are small companies out there that seem to make a business out of the crumbs that fall from the high table.

There are not so many of the fanboys you find in Vegas, but with the show covering a large geographic market, it's not as easy to get there as a short flight from Los Angeles. There must be good business in virtual sets judging by the number of green screens, but talking to Grass Valley, I heard how it had departed from the usual camera set. Featuring a custom Harley-Davidson in a still life, I learned how the company wanted to avoid the usual set featuring a young girl looking pretty, yet bored. “They end up texting to their boyfriend all day by the second day of the show.” Methinks a wise decision.

With a strong local media business, Singapore is a hub for many global media players, so not unnaturally there was much evidence of the connection of file-based operation that now encircles the globe. You can find the same companies operating the same equipment in Los Angeles, Atlanta, London and Singapore. The television business is headed down the same road as the movie business. Production companies that grow and contract a project-by-project basis feed global distribution companies. Television does, however, stand apart with live sports, news and studio shows.

Travelling through Singapore, I noticed a sign advertising apartments in a huge luxury block. Aside from the floor area, an advertised benefit was 1000Mb/s Internet. The skyscraper cities of the Asia-Pacific region lend themselves to such fiber systems. It's much less costly to install fiber to a few hundred dwelling units in a single building than to install fiber in the sprawling housing developments of the West. As OTT takes off, Western countries with sub-10Mb/s connections are going to find citizens in a digital divide between those who get basic facilities like e-mail and Web surfing, and those who can watch simultaneous streams of HD in different rooms.

Not unnaturally, one of the big themes (alongside the cloud) was OTT. A special demo area featured several interactive applications, notably one based around betting on horses. It does seem difficult to separate our sector from gaming, shows or apps.

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