Viewer content expectations and delivery developments

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ATEME VP marketing Remi Beaudouin discusses viewer content expectations and delivery developments.
Article by David Davies issued on Sunday, April 17, 2016, SVG Europe  

Increasingly, industry discussion is dominated by the move to IP connectivity, whether it be for contribution or distribution. The sheer volume of data to be transferred means that compression efficiency is a critical issue, while the sheer number of content paths means that automatic provisioning, monitoring and quality control of links is vital. Current forecasts are that video consumption on mobile devices will grow by more than a third in 2016 alone (34.8% according to Zenith Optimedia). One of the major drivers for that growth will be the two big sporting events this year: the Euro football championships in France and, of course, the Olympics in Rio. Delivery evolution and viewer expectations were therefore high on the list of priorities when SVG Europe spoke to Remi Beaudouin, VP marketing at video compression specialist ATEME…

What is driving technological change in this area?

The underlying message is that consumers want more choice, on any device, all the time. That is leading to real challenges both for creators of content and for those who have to deliver it. It is not just volume – it is trends which involve bigger data files, like 4K (and probably 8K) video and virtual reality. Finally, consumers are focused on quality. They no longer regard video to mobiles as a miracle; they invest in the best screens even on their phones, and expect the best pictures on those phones.

What is happening in distribution?

As you know, the rise in mobile content consumption is staggering. The 34.8% growth that is forecast for 2016 follows on from 43.9% growth in 2015.

Consumers want to use their phones and their tablets to catch up on favourite programmes, but most of all they want to use them for additional content. In sport they want to be in the locker room before the game, sitting alongside the coach and seeing the decision-making processes during the match.

As 360˚ video becomes a reality, so viewers want to really feel a part of the event, to be right there. All these technologies are now ready and mature – but all require more data to be prepared, encoded and delivered.

What is the core challenge for delivery?

We already know that the Euro football championship with see at least eight games covered in 4K/ Ultra HD (UHD). That coverage will be taken by broadcasters in France, the UK, Turkey and further afield in Korea and Japan, and probably many more.

Where 360˚ immersive video is available, that will probably be the equivalent of 4K resolution, too, so you need to plan for at least 15Mb/s to each user. And, as I say, this has to be a good and consistent quality of experience; consumers are very intolerant of poor video.

The solution for delivery must lie in virtualised, software-based solutions. It needs an all-IP solution, running on COTS hardware in a software headend, and perhaps even in the cloud.

This is the only solution that will deliver flexibility. Modular software gives you the agility to deliver what is needed: any input, any codec, any output, any resolution. CPU-based solutions are also inherently elastic, allowing dynamic allocation of resources. A software headend can make intelligent decisions about absorbing peak loads when needed, or enhancing video quality when CPUs are available.

Central to this is the migration to HEVC. Software encoders are now starting to deliver the promised benefits of this radically different codec, reducing bandwidth over MPEG-4 by 30 to 50%. Quality is increased; more signals can be handled; and UHD becomes cost-effective.

And looking at business issues rather than technical ones, a move to a software headend shifts the finance from capex towards opex. The capital costs are reduced because broadcasters and service providers can buy their own COTS hardware; flexible licensing links opex to outputs much more directly, ensuring transparency in understanding the costs of each service.

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