There has been a lot of talk at Mobile World Congress this week about 5G and the myriad of applications that high bandwidth, low latency radio networks will allow.

The deployment of 5G networks couldn’t come at a better time for broadcasters whose linear channels need live, appointment viewing experiences to lift them above the sea of on-demand viewing experiences rising around them.

5G, I believe, will help increase viewer engagement in linear channels as it will allow for the coverage of a wider variety of live events. With mature VoD offerings available in most markets we are now used to linear broadcasting being just one of many ways that audiences consume content.  Viewers increasingly use VoD platforms to consume thematic, pre-recorded content as opposed to traditional channels because it is a more natural fit. Linear channels need to exploit the advantages of their medium in order to prosper.

In the UK we have already seen BBC3 move to being on-demand only. After all why would a viewer sit and wait for a pre-recorded program to be streamed to them as part of a crafted schedule when they can just select and watch that content at the time they want to see it!?

Few thematic channels are able to add live content to their schedules as the cost is driven up by the simple economics of supply and demand: There are a small number rights being chased by an ever-increasing market of broadcasters.

The limit in supply is due partly to the fact that production and distribution of live events is only practical from venues or outside broadcast facilities that host regular high value events across which they can amortize the high cost of fiber or satellite connectivity.

The ability to use 5G to get signals out of a given venue serves two functions: It lowers the barriers to entry, allowing the coverage of more niche events to be commercially viable; and it widens the scope of possible venues from which a broadcast can take place as it removes the need for broadcast specific tie lines to have been installed or adequate space for uplink trucks to be available.

These benefits come not from the deployment of new networks at specific venues but rather through the ubiquitous availability of 5G networks within cities. It is this that opens up the possibility to freely connect from more venues and thus for more live events to be covered. When 5G makes it possible to broadcast a wider variety of live events the supply side of the rights equation becomes better able to meet demand. Here at Red Bee Media, we believe it will bring a renaissance for linear playout.

Red Bee Media are the premiere service provider for Live and Complex Playout Services. With experience across the full range of Playout services we are well placed to work with broadcasters who aspire to grow the amount of live content on their channels. Our operators have experience with some of the most complex channels in the world and we have technology platforms that allow our customers to experiment and evolve without compromising channel quality and brand image.

Contact us to discuss further how we can enable your channels to benefit from the growth in live content being enabled by emerging technologies.

Richard Cranefield, Head of Portfolio for Playout, Studio and Systems Integration Services