NAB 2018 – The Business Is The Future

By Laurie Kennedy

The tagline for NAB 2018 is The M.E.T. Effect, signalling a theme that covers Media, Entertainment, and Technology, much more than just broadcasting. The conference sessions provided a sense of what’s happening from a business perspective, an outlook to the future, and a sense of what technology might be the next disruptor.

The biggest disruptors to the industry came a decade ago when Apple introduced the iPhone and Netflix launched its online streaming service. Nokia and Blackberry had been the leaders in mobile up to that point. The iPhone delivered a game changing user experience, including video streaming. This was the beginning of the streaming evolution and massive disruption to the broadcasting and cable industries, forever changing how and where we view video.

A FUTURE VISION

Nokia’s Anthony Burkland presented the company’s vision for 2025, which focuses on significant evolution of the screen user experience (UX) and personalization. Nokia’s “Any Vision” theme is comprised of three pillars: Any Surface, Any Show, and Any One.

ANY SURFACE (screen experience) — Moving away from a fixed device and onto a wall, window, table, appliance, or car windscreen, surfaces will deliver a pervasive experience everywhere. (e.g. connected cars, buses, trains, etc.)

ANY SHOW (personalization) — Content will be timeless and not served on a timeline. “Live” will still be on-demand, but not appointment driven via a linear stream. Content will be well curated and unbound with discovery personalized to the user based on their profile data. This will create more relevant monetization opportunities.

ANY ONE (openness) — Openness requires an end-to-end IP delivery platform and open systems (a world away from traditional linear channels). This will drive a faster and broader consumer experience.  The experience must be immersive and bring the consumer into the content, whether a show or ads.

Anthony’s final remarks; you need to be prepared to innovate!

WHERE ARE WE TODAY

There are still differing camps in terms of the vision, technology, and business models of the future. Many are still very much invested and evolving traditional models and technology. Regardless of the platform, the following topics were consistent throughout the sessions:

  • Storytelling and Content Production
  • Consumer Personalization and Experience
  • Content Curation and Discovery

STORYTELLING

During the opening session, Kevin Beggs, chairman of Lionsgate Television Group, discussed the future of dynamic and limitless storytelling with Jordan Wertlieb, president of Hearst Television.

Beggs said new project pitches and deals are tailored to the platform they are selling. Traditionally, a new show would start with a pilot and proceed to a series with the storyline evolving as episodes were produced. Today, especially on the streaming platforms like Netflix, the storyline and characters are developed for an entire season with an eye to future seasons. While it requires a lot more work upfront, the return is increased staying power. Many broadcasters are getting out of the pilot business and going straight to series in order to maximize the R&D money.

Beggs also mentioned that storylines are developed based on potential long-term return and whether they will be international distributed or syndicated. They are also getting into new entrepreneurial deals with small streamers where partial ownership is possible. The budget per episode for some TV series, such as The Crown, can equal those of feature films and this trend will continue. Beggs also believes there will be more competition in reality and sports.

CONSUMER FOCUSED BUSINESS MODELS

In the past, “Content was King.” Now the “Consumer is King” with key drivers being personalization and user experience. Existing broadcast practices need to be re-invented. The Linear Model (scheduled programming) and operational systems are problematic in supporting today’s needs.

In the Traditional Linear Model, processes and systems are driven from a program schedule, based on day and time, with programming and advertising content played from a broadcast log to the masses (one-to-many). The consumer is nowhere to be seen in the traditional operations environment, except as a reference at a demographic level, within aggregated research data to support the advertising currency (e.g. Reach, CPR, CPM) and monetization. This currency value is still an art today, as the research data is based on samples and estimates.

Though there are a variety of business models out there now (cable, over-the-air, and internet), it is believed the long-term model, regardless of platform, will be On Demand. However, the concept of linear playlists, whether personalized or generic will continue to exist.

The emerging Personalized Model is based on the idea that the consumer will find the content they want, through search or recommendation. This drives the need for content libraries to contain solid metadata (curation) in order to facilitate effective search and discovery. To enable this personalization the industry will need detailed consumer profiling. This will include a wide range of consumer data, including but not limited to demographic, psychographic, general preferences, location, transactional, and historical purchases or content consumption. Personalization is achieved based on the depth and breadth of the data collected, as well as machine learning and artificial intelligence which will help offer effective recommendations for shows and relevant advertising to the consumer.

The Personalized Model is based on a two-way communication with the consumer, allowing the tracking of the data. The ‘who watched what, when, where, and on what’ data produces science, not art, which supports the analysis and monetization (value) of show content and advertising. Traditional systems and processes do not support this methodology, so they must be replaced.

Data provides a path to define new currencies (ways to measure performance). Allison Metcalf, general manager for TV with LiveRamp, says advertisers want a true ROI (return on investment) and the ability for optimization of campaigns in flight (not post). The challenge with a new currency is crating a clear understanding of value and that both sides are getting a good deal.  This is often done through measurement history, which will need to be established with a new currency (benchmarks for comparison).

TECHNOLOGY ENABLERS

The key technology trends discussed across the NAB 2018 sessions were:

  • TERRESTRIAL (OTA/over the air) – ASTC 3.0 broadcast standard (NextGen TV)
    • UHD, 4K, geo-targeting, supports TV, radio, emergency, and more
    • Two-way applications, broadcasting with interactivity and personalization
    • Traditional ATSC 1.0 TV standard only 1-way (no return path)
  • WIRELESS – 5G, Enhanced Mobile Broadband
    • 10x less latency, less impact of urban density
    • Will support 100x more users than 4G
  • INTERNET – Next Generation Broadband
    • Cloud computing, storage, edge cloud services
  • ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI)
    • Big data, machine learning
    • Consumer personalization / targeting – Show content, advertising
    • Cognitive video editing – Audio, visual, textual, external, environmental recognition and analyses
  • AUGMENTED REALITY (AR), VIRTUAL REALITY (VR)
    • Compelling immersive experiences, remote gaming, e-sports, smart production, and more
    • Virtual sets, green screen
    • Modular elements – 3D layers, animations, graphics

TRAIL BLAZING

Just some examples of those already blazing the trails to the future:

  • TFO (Toronto), Eric Minoli, using gaming technology (Epic Games, Unreal Games Engine, based in Turkey) and a 3D production team to produce French children’s TV programming. Provincial election (June 2018) coverage will use gaming engine.
  • NHK (Japan), Yuko Yamanouchi, invested in “AI Driven Smart Production”, social media/data analysis, image analysis/recognition, speech recognition, automated commentaries and audio descriptions for the visually impaired, character-generated (CG) based sign language for the hearing impaired. Auto-generated sign language using for weather; research ongoing for sports.
  • Cincinnati Bell (US), Emily Schierberg, looking at Android TV to expand their existing linear cable service and offer linear OTT, using existing linear back-end.
  • DNA (largest pay TV operator in Finland), Ville Partenan, using Android TV, can bundle with their existing broadband offering, better access to consumer usage data and broader audience.
  • South Korea, in May 2017 launched the world’s first commercial terrestrial (OTA) UHD broadcasting services using ATSC 3.0 (NextGen TV). In 2018, the three major broadcasters (KBS, MCB, SBS) launched the latest version with interactive home portal service (TIVIVA2.0), more to come including, mobile HD, advanced emergency alerting, dynamic linkage, targeted advertising, over next few years. Plan to offer terrestrial 4K UHD across the country by 2021.
  • Pearle TV (US), Anne Schelle, believes in ATSC 3.0, trials underway in Phoenix, will continue to roll-out in other markets over the next few years.
  • Sinclair Broadcast Group (US), building out ATSC 3.0 in Washington, Dallas, and Las Vegas.
  • QURATE Retail Group, Sean Bunner, eight retail brands (e.g. QVC, HSN, zulily), looking into ATSC 3.0 to help with TV experience, and interactivity for shopping (direct to consumer).
  • Cleveland, Ohio Test Station, NAB and CTA offering ATSC 3.0 test facility.
  • The AWARN Alliance (US) – Geo targeted public service, advanced emergency alerting system, based on the NEXTGEN TV standard, ATSC 3.0; OTA delivery to an unlimited enabled TVs, connected cars, handheld devices. AWARN.org

MOST USED BUZZ WORD @ NAB 2018

Ubiquitous (yoo-bik-wi-tuh s)  adjective

… present, appearing, or found everywhere, especially at the same time.

Ubiquitous services, available where-ever you go on any device or surface.  

Synonyms = pervasive, universal, worldwide, global, omnipresent

Laurie Kennedy
Principal Consultant at Sapphire Leadership, Inc.
Toronto, ON
E: LSKennedy@sapphireleader.com
P: 416-918-4161.