The way people consume TV content is changing, pushed by new behaviours and enabled by new technologies. TV viewing is no longer bound by location, time of day or a hefty TV set and watching video on a mobile screen is becoming the new norm. But what will be the next transformative change that will define the next generation viewing experience?

Fundamentally, the future viewing experience will be immersive, interactive and engaging (while remaining social), and the technology that successfully provides most of these characteristics will become the prevalent enabler. As new technologies and content types appear, broadcasters and content owners need to transform their organizations accordingly. 8K, 360-degree video streaming, Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and mixed reality are just a few examples of the innovations that command new technology requirements from media companies to deliver the all-important immersive and engaging user experience.


VR and 360-degree video

When we look at the main drivers of this transformation, VR technology is one of the primary innovations that will deliver complete immersion and interactivity with video content. Although discussions around the potential of VR have been ongoing for some time, the exact use cases and types of content that will transform the industry and bring additional growth in revenue and viewers are yet to be defined. Nevertheless, there are a few technology challenges that can already be anticipated.

If VR is used to experience real – as opposed to virtual – content, the main consideration will be how 360-degree video in high resolution (8K and higher) can be delivered with low latency and efficient video compression quality to recreate the immersive experience. In addition, it will put specific requirements on video content production to ensure the most authentic and exciting experience. The goal is to ensure the optimal technology, function and platform for the required processing application and service delivery.

VR can be used as a tool to create a multi-screen TV experience, enabling viewers to watch multiple live events simultaneously without switching between channels or relying solely on one TV display. Watching multiple content streams at the same time puts a lot of pressure on bandwidth. However bandwidth control can be based on the field of vision where multiple decoders are used in a virtual reality environment. Bandwidth usage is displayed near real time based on where the television screens are in relation to the viewer’s field of vision.


AR and content enrichment

In contrast, AR maintains the social aspect of traditional TV viewing, while also offering opportunities to watch additional content as part of a far deeper and more complementary experience for the consumer. Used as a second screen, AR provides supplementary content on top of regular TV programming, either as an overlay of extra information or recaps and replays, to enhance the content shown on the primary screen. For example, in live sports programming, all the commentaries, analyses and data visualization can be projected using an AR headset, without interrupting the main program. Unlike VR, AR ensures that viewers do not disconnect from the people they are watching TV with.

The auxiliary content developed for and shown in AR can range from graphics, news tickers and snipes through to personalized information such as show reels, replays and information about upcoming shows. Advertising using AR will be less intrusive, providing fewer interruptions and more direct links to the main TV content. However, key technology requirements for creating a relevant AR experience will be video processing – guaranteeing the best possible quality, in addition to bandwidth control and availability and low latency – to ensure real-time performance.

Regardless of the use cases, AR and VR will be among the technologies to disrupt the way people experience TV. The media companies that are prepared to address the new challenges and build the capabilities that can manage those technologies in an efficient and effective way will be the ones that reap the benefits from the next generation TV experience.

Stanimir Dimitrov, Product Marketing Manager, Online Video Services and Sports Graphics