- May 5, 2015
- Posted by: Kauser Kanji
- Category: Review
New venue, new time of year but is TV Connect still worth going to? We heard mainly positive reviews.
Wow, it’s May already and another TV Connect has just come to an end. The show is normally on in March but this year it moved to a new slot, post-NAB, and a new venue at London’s Excel centre. So, what were the best things we saw at the event? What’s everyone talking about? And is TVC still worth going to? Some thoughts in no particular order:
#1. Cloud DVR, Live Streaming and D2C
There are some industry technologies that have been around for a while but that need to wait for a tipping point before going mainstream. 2013, for example, was the year that the value of VOD scheduling and workflow became widely recognised (step forward BeBanjo); 2014 saw a move away from legacy to customised, off-the-shelf, media asset management systems (see Nativ.tv). Similarly, the buzz at TV Connect 2015 was about three sets of products that suppliers have been pitching for years but where a firm business case has now been established: Cloud DVR, Live Streaming (aka simulcast) and solutions that can help set up direct-to-consumer services (D2C) quickly and efficiently. Companies to look out for in these segments include Edgeware Solutions, Brightcove, NeuLion, Kaltura , thePlatform and Xstream which announced, just this morning, that it is to open a new office in London. As a slight aside, one of these companies told us that they were working on 25 different D2C proposals right now (I’ll be posting a separate piece about this soon). KK
#2. Fan TV
It feels like we write about content recommendation after every major show and I guess that’s either a) because the related vendors (Rovi, ThinkAnalytics, ContentWise, Spideo, Digitalsmiths etc.) are really good at PR or b) because we know that broadcasters / operators / service-providers are actively looking at these solutions if not actually implementing them.
One such company is Time Warner in the US which uses Fan TV – “a device that combines live TV, video-on-demand and streaming services in a unified discovery experience”. We saw Fan TV – which was acquired by Rovi last November – in action and I have to say, I was seriously impressed. A dinky, button-less, remote control reminded me of a first-gen iPod in its simplicity and the on-screen UI felt Apple-like too using, as it did, the controller’s accelerometer to whizz through available shows and movies. The inclusion of social content recommendation, predictive searching and rich, personalised metadata made this, for me, the stand-out product at TV Connect.
You can see Fan TV in action here https://www.fan.tv/tv/features KK
#3. Piksel Voyage
As long ago as August 2011 we reported on news that American Airlines had become the first North American carrier to offer in-flight streaming. That early implementation stored the entire video catalogue on-board which could be served using the plane’s Wi-Fi network. Now Piksel is offering a slightly different take on mass transit VOD (MTVOD?) with its “Voyage” product. Here, travellers can download content to their own iOS and Android screens as soon as they’ve checked in for their journey online – usually 24 hours before departure. The airline can choose to set a maximum number of downloads, purchases can be made with money or accumulated air miles and titles are automatically deleted from devices two hours after scheduled landing times. Natasha Roberton, VP Global Brand & Communications at Piksel, told us about two big advantages of this type of solution:
1. Because it’s BYOD (bring your own device), carriers can get rid of the tiny, low-quality, chair-back screens that we’re used to seeing. This reduces maintenance costs and weight which also leads to fuel savings.
2. The cost of allowing passengers to recoup air miles on future travel is a huge expense. Encouraging passengers to spend that currency on video is a great way for airlines to balance their air miles books.
Piksel already has a customer signed up for Voyage but it couldn’t be named (Voldemort Airlines?). We look forward to hearing more about how the service has been integrated in a live environment. KK
#4. Good Looking User Interface Design is Still Out There
A quick scan through our Video User Interface Library reveals a certain level of homogeneity amongst many on-demand services. The functionality is broadly the same (here’s a list of common features) and one only has to look at the landing page of Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video on iPad to see that the major difference in both services lies in the colour scheme – slight variations of grey. I guess the question is: are there any inventive looking user interfaces out there anymore?
The answer is yes, and during TV Connect we found some. Kauser has already mentioned Fan TV (see #2 above) and a demonstration from technology company NeuLion helped restore my faith in interesting UI design.
NeuLion works with some of the largest sports organisations in the world such as the NFL, NBA and UFC and its flagship product, NHL GameCenter Live, includes a video portal, match and athlete contextual information (via overlays), Twitter cards and innovative camera feeds enabling multi-angle replays all whilst a live video stream plays in the background. Everything is there to give the viewer a more engaging experience. Whilst overlays wouldn’t work for a drama on Netflix as it would detract from the storytelling experience, for live sports NeuLion is doing some interesting things to keep users eyes stuck to screens.
On a related note, I also had a very interesting demo from Comigo, an IPTV/OTT solution provider, who showed me their unique STB middleware. What struck me most was the social functionality available on the big screen – users are able to watch, interact and chat with their friends whilst watching a live stream in real-time. JB
#5. 4K is Here… Still
4K was a hot topic for many of the exhibitors at this year’s TV Connect – Chinese network supplier Huawei presented a carrier-grade 4K IP video standard, NeuLion showcased an impressive Ultra HD-ready product portfolio focussed on live sports and John Cobb, President of Software and Services at Pace, said during his keynote that “Ultra HD is here”, before warning pay-TV operators that neglecting higher quality broadcast would be done at their own peril as OTT services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video start to take the lead.
But the whole conversation around 4K/UHD is starting to feel a little stale – we’ve reported on the topic since IBC 2013 and it feels like we’re still in the same place. “The Olympics will be the event that really kick-starts 4K” we heard from one vendor, whilst another suggested it will be the World Cup in 2018. Either way, it’s still very much an early adopters market with some way to go before it becomes commonplace.
It feels like a classic chicken-and-egg situation: for broadcasters and manufactures to pull the trigger on serious investment in 4K there has to be the demand from consumers. But this demand won’t have a chance to gain momentum until device cost is reduced to an affordable rate, more gripping UHD content is made available and broadband infrastructure becomes robust enough to handle the constant 15Mbps speed required to stream 4K to millions of users. Oh, and we need widespread HEVC take-up too.
Stay tuned. In high-def of course. JB
#6. TV Connect – Still Worth Going to
That’s a statement rather than a question. Personally, I’m a fan of TV Connect and that’s because it’s local (based in London), it’s a good mix of exhibition, learning and networking and it brings together most of the industry’s largest technology vendors. Most… Some of the usual exhibitors that you might expect to find were conspicuous by their absence e.g. Ericsson which held its own off-site event.
The number of delegates was apparently up 5% this year and TV Connect’s new time in the calendar after NAB meant that all those people who couldn’t make that show – especially if they were based in Europe – could attend this one instead. We saw representatives from almost all of the UK’s major broadcasters too. That said, a number of suppliers we spoke to thought the event should be reduced from three to two days. The new venue, Excel, felt like a good move. KK
What did you think? Add your comments below or tweet us @consultVodkr