Coming to a smartphone, tablet or PC screen near you

July 9, 2017 Brian Morris

The raft of new 4K TVs and devices released this year reinforces how the average viewing experience is becoming ever-more sophisticated and complex. This is great for consumers who get to see their favourite shows in better quality than ever before, and see new content produced for these enhanced mediums and platforms.

It also represents an exciting opportunity for content producers, distributors and broadcasters to push forward the boundaries of TV. However, it also represents a huge challenge. They’ve gone from delivering TV programming through one method – broadcast TV – to delivering live and on demand content to mobiles, TVs and laptops across fixed networks and mobile, in HD, 4K (and soon in 8K) and HDR.

Satellite and cable are no longer enough to provide the same high quality experience to viewers, however, and whatever the viewer wants to watch. Increasingly they are coming to depend on the Internet as a delivery method, as well as investing in ever-more sophisticated infrastructure like new connection points and protected fibre paths to handle this demand.

This kind of investment is rapidly becoming the key differentiator for those who produce, distribute and broadcast content. After all, whether watching on their smartphone on the commute to work or on their 4K television in the comfort of their living rooms, viewers won’t wait if they can get something quicker and better elsewhere.

Enabling new viewing experiences

This new 4K technology also gives us an opportunity to look at the progress made by enabling technologies such as OTT networks, which broadcasters use to deliver content to their viewers as these can have as major an impact on the viewing experience. For example, low-latency feeds can enable new features such as super-fast channel changes and greatly reduced buffering times when streaming content. These features are exclusive to OTT content delivery and examples of how technology is allowing broadcasters to enhance the viewing experience using non-traditional distribution methods.

The concept of the enhanced viewing experience is one which can mean all things to all people. The advent of 4K and Ultra HD is certainly one such technology which is providing an enhanced viewing experience, but there are others which we have seen enter the conversation last year too.

Despite the fact that virtual reality is, for the most part, currently restricted to gaming environments and applications as opposed to a viable broadcast entertainment feature, there are technologies on the market which are paving the way for more immersive entertainment experiences. 360 degree video is an example of a technology which is out there and already being perfected.

Experiences such as those produced by Discovery VR show how far videos from a 360 degree perspective have come in recent years. Furthermore, Intel’s 360 replay technology which has been used in Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA) and La Liga broadcasts provides viewers with a 360 perspective of the action – allowing them to relive the big moments of a game through the eyes of the players on the pitch.

More definition, more data

As well as the fact that enhanced viewing experiences such as those described above can give broadcasters a key differentiator and competitive advantage, they have another thing in common. They all require more bandwidth than 2D TV formats, in turn placing additional data loads on the OTT networks which are delivering them. That is why on top of the exciting new broadcast technologies that are coming on to the market, the IP networks over which broadcasters are looking to distribute their content across the globe are just as – if not even more – important.

While content is still the major differentiator for broadcasters and producers, the quality, individuality and intuitiveness of the viewing experience now carries greater influence over the choices of viewers, in a world where the choice of content is near-infinite.

2017 will be a big year for broadcasting tech in terms of what new technologies will find their true place in the TV entertainment domain and how broadcasters will use technology to inspire more innovative ways of bringing content to their viewers’ screens and keeping them hooked.

Read our previous blog by Brian Morris about the global TV market.

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