LAS VEGAS—The media and entertainment (M&E) industry is still figuring out the next generation of business models for multiplatform content and video, but that has not slowed new innovations coming from vendors trying to meet the demands of the new media consumer.
“Multiplatform” is indeed the new M&E buzzword, joining Ultra HD, OTT (over-the-top), HDR (high-dynamic range) and WCG (wide-color gamut).
The key enabling factor is another technology—IP (Internet Protocol)—which is quickly taking over all aspects of media production, distribution and consumption. Consumers are increasing their use of Internet-connected devices like Sling TV or Roku, smart televisions and smartphones.
IP-based systems not only can be run on cheaper, commodity equipment, but they can increase the visibility and interactivity between publisher and consumer. Ultimately, IP distribution gives the viewers more flexibility over when they watch and where they watch.
Adobe this week released new data on its TV Everywhere universe of distributors and viewers that shows that TV-connected devices have surpassed the web browser for accessing video content. Connected devices now claim 32 percent of access, up from 20 percent two years ago, while browsers have fallen from 26 percent to 22 percent. Mobile platforms still lead, with 46 percent, but that is down from 54 percent two years ago.
Ironically, smart connected devices are supposed to have freed viewers from the chains of the primetime lineup, but Adobe data shows that connected device usage is greatest between 4 p.m. and 11 p.m., and peaking at 9 p.m.
“IP at the end of the day means you get to know more about your audience, the [IP] signal goes in both directions,” said Campbell Foster, director of product marketing for Adobe’s Primetime service. “And IP allows the programmers to give more of what people want and create better experiences.”
In other words, new technology helps publishers and content creators monetize their content more effectively, and soon they will be able to sell advertising on a much more fine-grained audience basis, rather than just demographics like age and gender.
That’s one of the ideas behind new Watson services from IBM. The company announced at the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) Show held here the IBM Content Enrichment Service, which is a collection of existing Watson machine learning APIs—Tone Analyzer, Personality Insights, Natural Language Understanding and Visual Recognition—that can analyze video for keywords, concepts, visual imagery, tone and emotional context.
The service is still in private beta and will be released this year. Early use cases include it being used at this year’s Masters golf tournament. On the Master.org website, IBM used the Content Enrichment Service to segment the coverage automatically into highlight reels, based on semantic queues in the content.
Ultimately such a service will help publishers slice and dice content dynamically and automatically, and be able to serve it to an audience in near real time without time-consuming and costly post production.
Professional Video for Everyone
New technology is also empowering new types of content creators. What began with YouTube in 2005 has evolved into things like Twitch and Facebook Live, turning everyone into a potential video producer.
At NAB, DISH Network announced SlingStudio, a connected device that enables multicamera production and live streaming. The $999 unit can handle up to four devices, which can include regular video cameras connected with an HDMI cable, or smartphones connecting wirelessly.
The device can save video for production later, or producers can use the accompanying iPad-based console to stitch the feeds together and stream them live.
DISH Senior Vice President of Product Development Paddy Rao says that the feature set available in SlingStudio opens up professional-quality broadcasting to a new audience at about a quarter of the price.
“Video distribution is mature and well-understood, and now it’s cheap or free,” he said. “The missing element is multiple cameras. This is video sync for the masses.”
The More Things Change
The upheaval of new technologies entering the M&E space is against to the backdrop of traditional broadcasters who must face the inevitability of a world without their trusty closed and proprietary systems. Also, with the completion of the recent spectrum auction, many stations will have to move their channels in a massive “repack.”
Yet despite—or maybe because of—all of the change, traditional, linear TV is still the bedrock of society. As NAB President Gordon Smith said in his Monday keynote, “Even in this era of unprecedented competition for eyeballs, broadcast TV airs 90 of the top 100 most-watched television shows every week.”
NBC personality Al Roker, who besides being the Today Show weatherman also owns Al Roker Productions, which produces content for a variety of distribution channels, spoke on a panel with representatives from Twitch, the gaming live stream platform, and the National Football League about where this is all headed. He perhaps summed things up best for those caught between new and old media worlds.
Where once, in the days of President Roosevelt, people used to gather around the radio for fireside chats, “people don’t gather ’round the computer” to share content any longer, Roker said. “They gather virtually. … I still love my TV.”
Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. He has an extensive background in the technology field. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture, at TechTarget. Before that, he was the director, Editorial Operations, at Ziff Davis Enterprise. While at Ziff Davis Media, he was a writer and editor at eWEEK. No investment advice is offered in his blog. All duties are disclaimed. Scot works for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this blog, and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.