The Quickening Pace of Convergence

Last year we kicked off 2017 by referring to it as “The Year of Converged Workflows.” And in many ways, it certainly was, with both broadcast and over-the-top (OTT) video companies learning from – and working more closely with – each other than ever before. At this year’s National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention in Las Vegas last month, it was clear that no matter what the delivery vehicle is, conversations and innovations focused on merging the quality and reliable performance of broadcast with the efficiencies and multi-platform power of IP delivery. With the mid-point of the year on the horizon, here are just a couple of ways in which the world of converged workflows will continue to accelerate:

Improving communication between workflows

The landscape for 2018 and beyond is uncharted territory. In the short term, 4K programming and premium on-demand content will continue to increase the size of the average file, and the quality expectations of the average viewer. In the longer term, new forms of consumer video (VR and AR, for example), will need even more complex supporting information than a “standard” video playback. This will require a robust, intelligent delivery superhighway that can quickly process and communicate a mountain of data. Today, the industry is laying a foundation of standards and protocols that will provide more flexibility and better machine-to-machine communication. Two highlights:

  • SMPTE 2110: The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers announced this suite of transport protocols last year, and as adoption increases it promises to be a big step in the right direction for a converged broadcast / IP workflow. SMPTE time-stamps the video, audio, and ancillary data of a video signal and then sends them in separate IP streams, which enables the receiving end to ensure a better playback -- or to just receive specific parts (audio only, for example) without having to accept the entire program.
  • SCTE 224: Each video relies on a massive amount of accompanying metadata in order to be delivered accurately, to honor all policies, restrictions, and rights, and to enable robust search discoverability. The SCTE 224 standard, which we’ve written about extensively (here’s our March blog on the subject), is not ubiquitous yet; however it’s gaining traction as an effective way to bring QAM and IP delivery into alignment. On the vMVPD front, FuboTV announced their adoption of the standard in March.

Closer collaboration between OTT and pay TV

Audiences don’t see broadcast vs. digital as an either-or proposition. Over half of US homes have both pay TV and OTT services, according to a new study by Parks and Associates. Furthermore, the same study shows the value of pay TV’s presence in the home as an important platform by which digital media brands can connect with families through a premium living room viewing experience. OTT users report watching their services from their television screens at least 50% more than other platforms such as PC’s, smartphones, or tablets. Consumers are empowered by choice, but the sheer amount of choice can make it challenging for consumers to build a personalized “library of content access” that makes it easy to manage and discover content. Every destination thrives based on its ability to deliver content that resonates with audiences, but it’s not just “the next big show” that builds lasting relationships with viewers. Local programming, live sports and events, niche programming, and monetization strategies that simplify the management of subscriptions and transactions are all part of a long-lasting consumer-content relationship.

It's worth keeping in mind that collaboration is not a matter of traditional broadcast workflows being supplanted by IP delivery in its entirety. Instead, think of it as an ongoing evolution of the hybrid models that are in operation today. After all, the points of complexity within the delivery workflow have definitely shifted. As technology innovations simplify the production and delivery of quality content, it has also created a diverse landscape of possibilities as to how video can be used and sold. The “best of both worlds” approach solves for today’s opportunities while maintaining the adaptability needed for tomorrow’s video market.

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