5G Promises New Opportunities for Broadcasters

LAS VEGAS—The idea of 5G means so many things to so many people that it is not surprising what 5G means at NAB Show largely depends on whom you ask.

Outside the industry, 5G is more broadly seen as the high-speed wireless network that will let consumers download an HD movie in seconds; the wireless backbone upon which smart cities will be built; the low-latency network that will enable remote surgeries and autonomous vehicles; and on and on.

At NAB Show, it’s much the same. 5G is the ultimate wireless contribution platform; it’s the nemesis of TV broadcasting that will allow others to compete for eyeballs and revenue; it’s the complementary cousin of Next Gen TV that will enable a new symbiosis between broadcasters and wireless operators; it’s the AR and VR enabler; it’s the technology that will bring about a lifestyle normalcy for sports production personnel who today travel constantly; and on and on.

Those differing perspectives on 5G were on full display at Destination 5G, a pavilion in the South Upper Hall, and at exhibitor booths, including those of Airwavz.tv, Cinegears, Gaian Solutions, Lumens, MixedTek, Nimbus, PIXTREE and Radionor Communications.

Shelly Palmer, president and CEO of The Palmer Group, brought some clarity to 5G with the session “5G Is the Future … Or Is It?” Joining Palmer was Lynn Comp, vice president of Data Center Group, and general manager of Visual Cloud Division at Intel’s Network Platforms Group; Taher Behbehani, senior vice president and general manager, Mobile B2B Division, Samsung Electronics America; and Christopher Levendos, vice president of network engineering and operations at Crown Castle.

The session “Making Meaning Out of 5G” put 5G into context specifically for those in the media and entertainment industry. “For most people, 5G is an abstract idea,” said Fabian Birgfeld, CEO and co-founder at W12 Studios, who is presenting the session.

However, this session presented concrete examples of how the technology will impact brands and content. “For brands, 5G will mean new interactive ways to engage with the audience,” said Birgfeld.

That will translate into new monetization models built on targeted, contextual offers, cross-sells and up-sells as well as giving the media entre into “new sectors that are not traditionally media and entertainment focused,” he said.

Overall, 5G will demand rethinking what content looks like. It likely will make content interactive and participatory for the audience, leveraging the throughput and low latency of the next-gen wireless network to present viewers with a “seamless mixture of physical and digital worlds,” said Birgfeld.

Perhaps the most immediate impact of 5G on content production will emerge in the more familiar territory of remote contribution and field production. “5G allows the freedom of movement of cameras and opens up creativity options for directors to be freer calling shots and pursuing their ideas,” said Matt Stagg, director of mobile strategy at BT Sport and a panelist on today’s session “5G: Revolutionizing the Sports Fan Experience.”

However, creativity is only one benefit, he said. 5G will also reduce the overall carbon footprint of traditional OB production by making REMI (REMote Integration), or at-home production, practical in more situations because of 5G’s throughput and low latency.

“We don’t have to send OB trucks everywhere, nor send all of the people needed for remote productions on the road in their cars,” he said.

5G also will translate into a better work-life balance for many of the people who today spend a lot of time on the road traveling long distances to various sports venues and are rarely at home on weekends. “They can come into the office or the studios, work there and are not away all the time,” Stagg said.

For the sports lover, 5G will transform how fans experience games, said Jim Ewaskiew, executive technical director at IBM Aspera.

Like fellow panel member Stagg, Ewaskiew predicts 5G will open up production options as well as offer fans new levels of sports enjoyment.

“On the capture/production side, local 5G nodes will support much improved wireless camera connectivity, higher bandwidth, high resolution [and] further coverage,” he said. “On the consumption side, the consumers can have richer in (and out) of venue experiences with augmented reality, game and player metrics and beyond.”

For local TV stations, 5G raises the prospect of battling a new competitor for audience, but it doesn’t have to be that way—it’s just too soon to tell, said Allan Tantillo, vice president of new technologies at Vertical Bridge, and moderator of today’s “ATSC 3.0 and 5G as Complementary, Not Competitive, Technologies” panel session.

“What I want those attending the session to walk away with is the need to continue questioning where 5G and ATSC 3.0 are going to end up together,” said Tantillo. “I don’t think there is an answer to that question yet.”

Peter Sockett, director of engineering and operations at Capitol Broadcasting Co.’s WRAL in Raleigh, N.C., a panelist during the session, concurs. “We have to figure out whether or not 3.0 and 5G come together in some magical universe where all things are wonderful—in other words do they complement each other,” said Sockett. “Or, do they exist in two separate spaces? Only time will tell.”

Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.