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A fast paced world requires the ability to recognize the signals. Like Native American smoke signals, Morse code, or even a baseball managers swiping the rim of his hat, signals guide and alert us. Various forms of technology represent today’s signals. Whether they are social media, wearables, apps or platforms designed to monitor and measure – we are seeking signals to warn us of potential failures and to identify opportunities. This is why Big Data is so omnipresent – it is perceived as one method of identifying signals.
Broadband penetration in the U.S. has grown from 20% in 2004 to 79% in 2014 (Leichtman Research Group 2014), while broadband connection speeds have increased from 56Kbps in 2003 to and average of 11.1Mbps in 2015 (Akamai State of the Internet Report, May 2015).
Many a start-up will tell you that their foundation was based on spotting a gap (aka opportunity) in the market that they knew they could fill. The ability to create a new reality is called progress. Look at the adoption of social media. The grand daddy of social media, Facebook, has 1.44B monthly active users (MAU) based on their April 2015 earnings report. That’s larger than the population of China. 70% of that MAU is mobile. That’s a signal.
When it comes to video, the power is shifting. YouTube was and still is the king of online video. Before YouTube online video was proprietary with inconsistent performance. The broadcast and cable industry did not consider online video a challenge or an opportunity. However, YouTube changed that by providing a user-friendly ability to upload AND view user-generated content. That’s a signal.
Facebook has entered the online video segment and is challenging YouTube for the all important ad dollars. The popularity of both platforms is not in question. The challenge will be who can better optimize the video experience, for both uploads and viewing, for the mobile audience. BTW, I’m defining the mobile audience as users viewing content on a tablet or smartphone via a Wi-Fi or 4G/LTE connection. Ooyala says that mobile now accounts for 42% of all online video viewing. That’s a signal.
What’s the next step in the progress of sharing and viewing video? For sure it is mobile? But what does that look like. What signals are we seeing from device manufacturers? Are you ready to watch TV on your smart watch?
What are the signals in your industry? How will financial services capitalize on tweets? Will railroads improve safety and optimize routes using communications and Internet of Things technologies? Will your car not only tell you that you need gas, but also the location of the closes gas station? By paying attention to the signals that are shared every day, perhaps you can identify the next big idea!
What’s your perspective?
Clouds are a good thing. Really. They are. Especially when they bring opportunity, flexibility and innovation.
Cloud solutions are making the news on an increasingly regular basis. The M&A activity related to cloud technology is hot as companies throughout the media lifecycle look to the cloud to drive new business models. Whether it is in post-production, the newsroom or cable head-end, cloud is the word. Cloud computing has been the talk of the IT industry for almost 20 years, but it is thanks to Google and Amazon that the terminology, and the technology, is now part of our everyday conversation. Clouds, you remember them - those white fluffy things up in the sky, are flexible and ever shifting. This is the premise behind cloud computing - on demand access to technology resources.
As the media industry increasing adopts IP and IT technology to enable media workflows, live broadcast and content distribution, cloud provides opportunities. In all cases, the consideration of cloud is driven by the need for flexibility without incurring unnecessary cost. Examples of cloud solutions changing the shape of the broadcast and cable industries:
Video is entertaining. Video is memorable. Video is sharable. And, video is consumed across an increasing number of distribution channels, platforms and devices. Whether it is professional or user-generated, video is inescapable. While much data is captured, analyzed and shared about how and where we consume video, none of this would be possible without the underlying network technology.
As noted by Nielsen, our behavior shifts depending on individual circumstances. The flexibility we now take for granted is dependent on the underlying distribution and delivery networks. It is dependent on network bandwidth to deliver sufficient data throughput to ensure an satisfactory consumer experience. With all the noise around big data - seemingly defined as that data that can be captured in tabular form and visualized in infographics, it is possible to forget about other perspectives on data.
Network operators have been advancing their capabilities to deliver content via broadband, WiFi or wireless (e.g., 4G, LTE, 5G) networks. These core networks are often overlaid with incremental content delivery technology which applies complex algorithms to determine the most efficient and effective path to deliver content to endusers. The rise of OTT video services is a boon for these content delivery network (CDN) providers. For CDNs, data is representative of network bandwidth. For them, the data of the network has never been so important.
It's a double edged sword. On one side it's about enabling bandwidth to move volumes of data traffic. For example, it has been reported that Netflix represented nearly 1/3 of all internet traffic in the U.S. in 2014. Network specialist, Ciena, sponsored research from ACG Research in 2014, which reveals that the shift to OTT viewing will increase annual household bandwidth requirements by 31%. Yet, even as we anticipate the arrival of even higher quality content in the form of 4K, a recent report from Akamai indicates that the U.S. is lagging the rest of the world in its ability to offer consumers sustained broadband speeds of at least 15Mbps. In fact, while U.S. leads the Americas region in average connection speeds, it is not even in the top 10 countries globally. Enjoying OTT content is all about the data throughput of both broadband and mobile networks.
Without the underlying network infrastructure we cannot binge, we cannot download, stream or upload videos. Network intelligence has long been big business in the telecommunications industry. The ability to monitor and predict network performance is critical for even the most basic of services - voice. However, when it comes to video delivery, network capacity is just one piece of the puzzle. Other pieces include technologies to compress content into smaller packages thus requiring less bandwidth for delivery; to guarantee in-order delivery of all those data packets and avoid a degraded consumer experience; or to protect both the network itself and the content against unwanted intrusion - these are all data centric solutions.
Tablets, smartphones, connected TVs - these are the devices driving increased bandwidth consumption. These are the alternatives to traditional TV viewing. They increase demand for bandwidth on all types of networks. Our expectation for video consumption is persistent regardless of place or device.
OTT is here to stay, but it has only been welcomed thanks to the capacity of the underlying networks. Millennials and Gen-X'ers have never known the challenges of the AOL dial-up tone. Or, the massive re-buffering of early streaming media solutions. They have the same expectations of OTT as they do of TV - when they turn it on, it works, regardless of which type of network they use for accessing content. Content delivery happens thanks to the continuous investment in network technology to support anticipated data throughput. Worried about your mobile data plan now? Just imagine what it will look like in 5 years.
What's your perspective?
The big news last week was Verizon's acquisition of AOL. It's a little bit funny how one of the original Internet stalwarts has been punted around the media and telecom sector. Even as we remember that AOL inspired a movie based on a service that is considered irrelevant by some, many have forgotten that AOL still exists. Since AOL's spin-off from their disastrous merger with Time Warner, it has been focused on content and advertising.
Is there any other way, other than content, to be relevant and influence audience in these days of content everywhere? AOL made the decision to focus on content through acquisitions (TechCrunch, HuffPo), technology (adap.tv, Convertro) and community (20,000 bloggers). They've invested in content development, mobile platforms, video technology. As a result they have reach, influence and...data.
Why is all this interesting for Verizon? Verizon has been an enabler of content delivery to its subscribers for 20+ years. However, they've stepped up their game in recent years through their Digital Media Services group. Their capabilities help customers to prepare and manage video content for delivery to subscribers on broadband, WiFi or wireless networks. They provide the infrastructure that we all take for granted that delivers voice, data and TV services to our devices wherever they may be. But, Verizon doesn't own content. Some of their competitors do (e.g., Comcast, Cablevision). Verizon has the ability to reach it's customers in ways that these competitors cannot - they are a mobile network operator. Mobile is the future. And the future of mobile is content, whether it is informational, entertainment, or advertising.
Moreover, the benefit of mobile is increased volumes of contextual data. Verizon has a view of its subscribers through the data gleaned from subscription plans as well as user behavior while consuming content across TVs, tablets and smartphones. The content and ad technologies that come with the AOL acquisition are complementary to Verizon's Digital Media Services. They provide Verizon with the potential for creating original content, increase advertising revenue through multi-platform ad tech and enhanced data to define further revenue opportunities. The mobile data provides perspective on where and what an individual may be doing as they engage with content and ads on their mobile device. The appeal to brands is evident. Verizon is definitely growing its capabilities beyond being a mere pipe.
While AOL still offers email services, its original business of connecting consumers to the Internet is long dead. In fact, that service was displaced by companies like Verizon. However, AOL was savvy enough, over time, to adapt and pivot. They recognized the value of compelling content and the opportunity to monetize its consumption across multiple channels. As a result they've become highly attractive
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Obtaining volumes of data can be a double edged sword. The media industry is embracing data, particularly consumer data, as the basis for validating investments and business models. Vendors at all stages of the media workflow are collecting data and emphasizing its value to their customers. But, collecting data without an understanding of how it will be used creates new problems, the least of which is storing all that data. The bigger challenge is figuring what they really want to learn from the data and then drive real, measurable value from it.
Imagine all the devices that now provide data: set-top boxes, tablets, smartphones, network routers, servers, storage....and more. Then consider all the data that is already surrounding any piece of media: descriptive metadata, licenses, contracts, schedules, algorithms...and more. And, we haven't even brought up the related social or digital data or the insights that are important to advertisers. There is data everywhere with just as many the vendors ready to help you collect it. And, they all directly or indirectly reference the all important consumer experience.
Even focusing on the consumer alone, means aggregating, correlating, and analyzing data from a plethora of resources. It's not enough to collect data from set-top boxes that reveals when and what a subscriber consumed. It's now a priority to assess their method and frequency of engagement with and around video. Content protection vendors will provide you with data to reinforce that derived from distribution channels. Did the subscriber start watching on one device and finish watching on another devices? How did they authenticate their access to content on their device of choice? How did this impact their level of engagement? The answers to these questions influence content production, scheduling, marketing, and advertising. Oh, and did I mention monetization?
Understanding preferred methods of engagement, will drive advertising models. What works on TV, does not work on a tablet nor on a smartphone. Yet, content must be monetized. It takes more than demographics to understand how to derive revenue for programming targeting the 18-24 year old audience. How does this audience respond to ad-supported content versus subscriptions? How do they discover the video programming? As the saying goes, "it takes a village" to capture data from a variety of sources and develop conclusions that subsequently drive future actions. It may start with demographics, but the process quickly incorporates analysis of a variety of stimuli and resulting actions. What happened that caused a viewer to engage or disengage?
Defining what is needed from the data is critical. Is it about audience engagement or customer experience? Is it about content quality? Network performance? Ad buying? The more specific the goal, the better understanding of the right vendor to provide that data; and the more effective the data collection and analysis. Making sense of data can be like looking for a needle in the haystack. Is that how you want to define your strategy? Big data has the potential to help shape the future of the media industry, let's not forget that it's about more than simple data collection.
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My blogs the past few weeks have been discussing why big data matters and IP in the broadcast industry. The connection between these topics may not be obvious, but the point is that all data is critical to the ongoing success of the broadcast business, at every step throughout the creative, management, distribution and consumptions processes. The adoption of IP in the broadcast workflow is critical to obtaining data that will influence business decisions. Internet Protocol based networks provide a volume of data that informs and complements data obtained from other sources.
The use of IP is about more than delivery of content to the consumer home, it's about migrating the operational infrastructure for broadcast. This migration will take years, and broadcasters will likely deploy IP alongside existing SDI components until this components no longer function. However, like the telecommunications industry before it, the broadcast industry will benefit from the flexibility and insight provided by IP networks. These networks have been utilized, for years, to enable creative collaboration amongst editing teams, to interconnect business solutions to manage resources, supply chain, and facilitate the management of rights, licenses and contracts. But, IP did not penetrate the broadcast control room. It was acceptable behind the scenes, but it was not deemed reliable enough for live broadcast.
Like all technologies, IP has evolved. The pressure is on for broadcasters to create more with less. The TV industry at large is going through monumental changes as an increasing volume of content is consumed online. This does mean that TV dead, merely that the business model is changing. As a result, broadcasters must become more nimble. This means adopting technology that is more cost effective and allows greater flexibility. IP networking is one element. Network providers like Cisco, have been penetrating the media value chain for years. They have long had a presence in cable head-ends. Now their opportunity expands to broadcast operations. Cisco was omnipresent at the recent NAB show with demos and announcements with Grass Valley, EVS, MLBAM, Imagine Communications, Globo, Adobe, Elemental, Signiant, Interra and Snell - reinforcing the relevance of IP to the future of broadcasting.
And, what about data? Well, solutions have long existed to monitor, manage and analyze IP networks and whatever devices are resident within them or attached to them. The introduction of IP networks into control rooms opens the door wider for software based solutions running on industry standard hardware. IP networks contain volumes of data about the effectiveness and efficiency of operational environments. IP networks are already providing audience insight with data about consumer behavior. They are also at the heart of analytics solutions capturing data from traffic systems, advertising platforms or rights management solutions. IP is at the heart of monetization strategies from enablement of workflows to the delivery of content to the aggregation of data.
The roadmap for broadcast must include IP if only for the flexibility and scalability that it enables. But equally importantly for the interoperability it enables between creative, operational and distribution platforms - providing a true end-to-end perspective through the data aggregated at every point of the media supply chain.
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Complementing broadcast content with IP delivery and relevant data is the name of the game for audience engagement. Nowhere was this more evident than at the EVS booth at NAB this year. I first checked out EVS's adoption of IP a few years, when they launched C-Cast. This cloud based platform allows live content producers to expand the reach and relevance of their content by enabling delivery to any device, while enriching the broadcast content with data, social updates and graphics.
This year EVS took a big step forward with its focus on the #ReturnOnEmotion and a related developer contest. EVS itself has leveraged C-Cast in its FanCast solution which changes the in-stadium experience. Wherever fans are in the stadium, in their seats, seeking refreshments or in hospitality suites, they are able to enjoy live or near-live content on big screens or small screens.
Prior to NAB, EVS launched a contest inviting developers to augment C-Cast capabilities. The contest prize - the ability to demo their capabilities at NAB in the EVS booth. Brilliant marketing by EVS. Not only did they enhance their solution portfolio, but they enabled developers who otherwise would not be able to afford a presence at NAB, the opportunity to showcase their solutions.
Each solution reflected innovation at the intersection of broadcast, IT and IP. The foundation, is C-Cast, which EVS. All of the solutions leverage C-Cast capabilities to provide fun and engaging sports experiences.
1. LiveLike - developed an blended live sport with virtual reality allowing viewers to step "into" the game with the ability to select different camera angles. For the sports fan who cannot be at the stadium, this is a truly engaging experience. I admit it was my first VR experience and I'm a fan! I can easily imagine avid fans adopting VR goggles and services to bring a new dimension to viewing their favorite teams. Honestly, I know kids who would have been fighting to use this technology during last years FIFA World Cup!
2. ChirpVision - brings mobile to life for in-stadium fans. Their fault-tolerant video streaming, with a less than 1 second delay, sets the stage for live or on-demand viewing of the sporting event. A clean, mobile-friendly, user interface, allows users to select camera angles, check social network activity, and enjoy VOD functionality such as rewind, pause and fast-forward. But, for ChirpVision, it's also about providing brands with a new channel for reaching fans. Their solution allows monetization of the video streams through display and video ad insertion.
3. Playrz - developed by Intellicore, is a fan centric app aggregating data and social content to augment live and on-demand video streams. Fans can find data pertinent to the real-time activity on the field. They can review and compare stats about teams and players, replay plays from different camera angles and interact with other fans. Already utilized at the FIBA (International Basketball Association) World Cup last year, Playrz gives the sports fan easy access to the information they crave during a game.
Seeing this intersection of technologies was compelling. Sports often leads the way in adopting and validating emerging broadcast technologies. And, EVS has long been engaged in delivery broadcast solutions to the sports market. However, they are taking their efforts to a new level by acknowledging the demands of the fans whether they are at home or in the stadium. By enabling content to be repurposed, in real-time, for consumption on IP enabled devices, with the added value provided by integration of statistical data and social feeds, EVS and their partners are helping sports teams, leagues and brands create richer fan experiences. What fun!
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Finally. Yes, the traditional broadcast vendors have finally accepted that the broadcast industry is accepting and adopting IP (internet protocol) networking as a means to collaborate, create, manage and distribute content. Grass Valley promoted "The Path to IP", while Imagine Communications (the former Harris Broadcast) has gone full steam ahead with cloud solutions for workflow and playout. Others, such as EVS, has been incorporating IP networking capabilities into its solutions for at least 4 years.
I've always been concerned about the slow transition to IP, but I come from a background in high tech, where IT and IP are pervasive. Broadcast has had the challenge of migrating existing infrastructure, overcoming transmission concerns, and doubts about the reliability of IP. However, as is often the case, the needs of the consumer have forced the industry to see the value that IP can provide.
Multichannel consumption is here to stay. Whether it is TV Everywhere or OTT, consumers are viewing content live or on-demand on their TVs, tablets and smartphones. Perhaps the delay in TV Everywhere (the ability to access and view your cable providers content anywhere on any device) is due to the doubts about IP networking. But that's just one piece of the value chain.
IP networks have been used for the distribution of TV content to the consumer home for almost 10 years. Digital workflows enabling the creation of video content have been mainstream for at least 5 years. Yet the adoption of IP networks for broadcast workflows has been limited. The argument is that IP cannot compete with SDI for live broadcasts. However, the transition is finally underway.
The big announcement at NAB2015 came from Imagine Communications. Their announcement with Disney/ABC Television Group about Disney's WATCH services, enabled by Imagine's cloud-based workflow and playout solutions is the industry game changer. When a industry heavyweight such as Disney, makes this kind of move, the rest of the industry is sure to pay attention. And, eventually, make similar transitions.
Without IP networks, this cloud based solution is not possible. Without IP, delivery of non-linear programming is not possible. Without IP, delivery to smartphones, tablets and connected TVs is not possible. Without IP, the aggregation of performance and usage data is more difficult. Without IP, the broadcast industry cannot innovate to fulfill the demands of its audience.
So, yes, I say FINALLY. It's about time IP is embraced by the broadcast industry! IP is more than networking, it's about infinite possibility.What's your perspective?
Every industry has it's perspective on data. Yet, perhaps no industry will change as dramatically, as the media & entertainment industry, through it's use of data. This is an industry that has long been driven by it's "gut". Watch almost any Mad Men episode and see how Don Draper pulls a pitch out of nowhere to win the client. The "golden gut" has long been the driver for green-lighting projects in Hollywood (and elsewhere). However, the shift to data driven program development may be attributed to Bonnie Hammer at USA Networks. She systematically changed the way original programming was approved and pursued. However, their access to viewer data was limited - until they initiated a comprehensive multi-channel fan engagement strategy. Their adoption of second screen tactics to engage with viewers has given them keen insight into fan sentiment.
More recently, the champion of data driven content is Netflix who have access to volumes of subscriber data that they aggregate, correlate and analyze to identify and validate project development opportunities. But is the use of data by the media and entertainment sector limited to that data related to their audience? This may be the most talked about use of data, but there are others. Data is critically important throughout the the process of creating, managing, distributing and consuming content - especially in this age of digital workflows.
Where is the data? It is everywhere. It is around the creative process, the business process and the actual consumption. Every aspect of data is directly or indirectly related to monetization.
1. Content Creation - This is where the "magic happens". Editorial teams collaborate to layer files, add graphics and special effects, incorporate music to create a finished product. They tag assets and create metadata to describe the asset. The metadata includes, but is not limited to, title, artist, composer, genre, encoding format, frame size, frame rate, bit rate and DRM properties. This data facilitates editing team discovery of assets to assemble new content or to repurpose existing content. Metadata stays with the asset throughout the media workflow and when it is stored or archived. Without metadata, the ability to create content and determine which content can be monetized becomes very difficult.
2. Business Management - Alongside the creative workflow, are the workflows to manage resources, scheduling, transmission, contracts, rights management and royalties. The data in these systems help to view, manage and control production costs. When content is available for distribution, platforms deliver solutions and data relevant to manage, track and monetize assets and related royalties payments, across multiple distribution channels. The complexity of the business processes, adjacent to the creative process, cannot be ignored. The data related to these processes is critical to the overall success in
3. Distribution - The mandate to deliver content to consumers across a myriad of devices requires those service providers who own the networks to guarantee a defined level of performance. They must serve the needs of content owners as well those of their consumers. They must monitor and manage the quality of their networks. And, these measurements are data. They measure bandwidth, network performance, streaming experience, track video playback quality, audience consumption patterns and more. Data is captured, analyzed and shared with content owners.
3. Consumption - This is the focus of the industry - creating and distributing content that will attract an audience. Whether it is a feature film or a sitcom, understanding the audience is key. They buy tickets and subscriptions. They are the potential buyers of products advertised by brands. The attention and focus on measuring audience is ever growing. Whether it is Nielsen, ComScore, Twitter, or other audience measurement solutions, the goal is to identify the volume, demographics and sentiment of a program's fans. This data ultimately drives advertising revenue which is also changing with the rise of data driven programmatic advertising. The increased adoption of OTT channels provides content owners with increasing sources of data about their consumers. OTT enables a direct relationship with consumers. Like Netflix, networks can benefit from a direct understanding of audience demographics and behaviors to understand which content, actors or genres appeal to their OTT audience. It can influence schedule, availability
Digital media has changed every aspect of the media industry and in the process increased the number of data sources. Data is persistent, voluminous and valuable at every stage of the media value chain. There are many more ways that data matters throughout the creative, business and distribution processes. Yet, this industry still relies heavily upon its gut. Perhaps this is due to the creativity that is a necessity. It will be interesting to see the balance of data and creativity. Data can validate investments. Data can reinforce strategies, but this industry more than others is dependent on creativity. Can all this data inspire creativity?
What's your perspective?