The 49th IBC closed in Amsterdam last week, with record numbers of attendees (almost 56,000) coming together to discuss the challenges and opportunities that face an industry in transition. The key themes were as expected – technology evolution towards a more IT/IP/Cloud model, a ramping up of UHD activity on the back of HDR and WCG developments, an early look at immersive experiences such as AR/VR and the growth of data-driven decision making in areas such as targeted advertising, personalisation and more.
The Next Generation Broadcast Tech Stack
Much has already been discussed at previous IBC events on the emergence, acceptance and adoption of the technologies that already power most other industries – software based components running on virtualised and cloud-centric infrastructure connected over IP networks. Last year at IBC we saw initial product demonstrations that supported this model and this year they have evolved in both maturity and form.
Microservices, often built on container based architectures, are the current state of the art in software based systems and many vendors at the show described how their products are being re-purposed in this form to provide greater deployment flexibility and, crucially, more rapid development. This is an important step forward, but should not be trivialised in terms of the organisational as well as technical challenges it presents to businesses. The promise is that in the future, broadcast solutions will be dynamically composed using these smaller distributed components into systems tailored to individual service needs. We are doing a great deal of work on this model at Ericsson and it is great to see broader industry traction gaining hold.
UHD was of course widely discussed and represented amongst both vendors and attendees. The addition of HDR and WCG to 4K (and even without 4K) under the UHD banner is driving many initiatives at the product, content and channel level. It looks like 2017 will be the year that existing UHD trailblazers, such as BT Sport, will be joined by other content providers looking to engage audiences with better quality pixels.
There was probably a larger gathering of VR and AR headsets at IBC than most other events to date. It is still too early to predict how significant an impact these technologies will have on TV viewing but the potential is undeniably exciting and we now need to see how the creative community can embrace these new tools to enhance storytelling and content immersion. By next year’s IBC we may get a better feel (assuming you have the haptic gloves on) of whether this is another 3DTV or something much bigger.
Data Driven Broadcasting
The final theme that was well represented was the whole area of how (much) more data is going to enable better decision making across the industry. From commercial and creative decisions being more informed by data, to audience facing targeting of ads and content personalisation, we might be seeing the Moneyball effect impacting broadcasting going forward. Bring on the quants.
Next year IBC will turn 50 and based on this year’s event, it is aging pretty well.
Steve Plunkett, Chief Technology Officer