Welcome to FierceCable's IBC 2013 Preview Issue! In this issue, we take a look at some of the trends and topics that will rear their heads at this annual showcase for Europe's broadcast industry. Plus, we chat with a few of the exhibitors, including Active Video, Liberty Global (Nasdaq: LBTYA) and Ericsson Mediaroom (Nasdaq: ERIC) about their view of the top trends at IBC.
We'll also be on site at the show, Sept. 12-17, so visit our Fierce IBC Live page throughout the show for ongoing news updates.
What will visitors and exhibitors be talking about at the show? While IBC's official page is touting themes like incorporating Big Data into broadcast operations, vendors and service providers are voicing interest or concern about the second screen, as well as the ongoing migration from traditional broadcast technologies to IP. Here are a few topics you'll hear about:
The great migration
Moving from traditional broadcast technologies to IP-based technologies has not been a painless process for content providers. Like traditional telcos with their ongoing migration from wireline voice, broadcasters are dealing with consumer demand for always-available programming across multiple devices. They've had to play catch-up with OTT providers like Google's YouTube and Netflix, which were able to flex with changes in media consumption during online video's early days, while maintaining profitability.
"We are very excited to explore how the fight is shaping up between national broadcasters (deep and local) versus big hitters like YouTube (thin and global) and understand what broadcasters are doing to defend their turf and to increase their relevance to their audience," said Bill Scott, chief operating & commercial officer for Easel TV, in a note on the show's key themes.
The second screen
Getting users engaged beyond simply watching a television show has occupied content providers' and operators' minds for some time now. We've covered a number of ideas that companies like Cox have implemented in the past, such as encouraging users to comment during a show via social media like Twitter.
Oracle's Robert Ambrose, director of media and entertainment industry for EMEA, said that his company will provide "real-world examples of tools and strategies that engage the viewer more directly than supplying simply a Facebook fan page or Twitter hashtag."
Measuring that engagement is another concern. Companies like comScore are in early days with regard to online video audience measurement. Analyzing multiple social media streams in tandem with live video delivery is still an arcane art. Measuring on-demand viewership across multiple devices is equally challenging.
You can't escape a broadcasting tradeshow without hearing the words "TV Everywhere." But what attendees are likely to hear more often at IBC 2013 is the phrase "true end to end solution." What are vendors selling in an end-to-end product, exactly?
This idea is reflected in both pre-show product announcements and trend watches by IBC itself. For example, as more telcos look at providing not just IPTV but content over wireless broadband devices via 4G LTE, they're working on both technology options to deliver that content as well as better licensing deals with broadcasters.
SPB TV, a Switzerland-based company, will showcase its "comprehensive" media platform for live and on-demand television. Targeting large mobile operators like StarHub and MTS, and international broadcasters like Amedia, the vendor says its can offer OTT television, IPTV, and mobile content delivery for the multiscreen environment.
While not formally touting its product as end-to-end, Cambridge, Mass.-based Akamai is also clearly looking to be as close to a one-stop shop for content providers as it can be. The vendor offers its Intelligent Platform and will be demonstrating its Sola Media Solutions suite of products which include transcoding, ad integration, and analytics features. In the United States, Akamai incorporated CDN technologies from its Verivue acquisition into its Aura Operator CDN platform, which targets telcos and cable operators that need an IP media delivery solution. It inherited Cox Communications and Charter Communications as customers when it purchased Verivue. Expect to see more moves like this from Akamai and other vendors globally.
"Many carriers are taking a very different approach to their CDN strategy than they did only a few years ago," said Paris Burstyn, senior analyst at Ovum, in a recent FierceTelecom article. "In the past, there was a strong desire for operators to build their own CDN and go it alone in the market. Now, they actively seek a partnership approach to address their needs."
IBC is a prime opportunity for various organizations to drop in and talk about new or updated technology standards. This year MPEG-DASH, HEVC/H.265, and Ultra HD/4K will get attention even as products featuring these new transmission standards are showcased at the trade show.
Also on the slate are chats about Android, which some say is becoming the de facto standard on set-top boxes thanks to its open-source, third-party-friendly application development environment.
IBC is also, of course, a vendors' show. Smack dab in the center of the schedule is Innovation Showcase, which highlights new technologies from smaller vendors.
Expect to see plenty of demonstrations of 4K HEVC video, a technology that will roll out to consumers on a larger scale this fall. A slew of set top boxes--many running on the aforementioned Android operating system--will likely be introduced. And IPTV middleware will be on display from vendors like Sigma Designs and Mediaroom.
The endgame for broadcasters, providers, telcos and cable operators is, of course, how they can make money from this new media ecosystem. It's a question IBC hopes its exhibitors can provide an answer to. Will 4K have a stronger takeoff than 3D TV did? Or will other video resolution technologies overtake it? And how much change will broadcasters be willing to make--how much of their capex budget can they allocate--as viewer demands shift toward more immediate engagement? Those questions will not have a simple, one-platform resolution, but EMEA-based companies will try.--Sam | +Sam Bookman | @FierceSamantha