In the fast lane

Radwan Moussali examines the factors paving the way in the new era of broadcasting
Tata Communications is the official connectivity partner of Formula 1.
Tata Communications is the official connectivity partner of Formula 1.

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By Radwan Moussali, senior VP, Middle East, Central Asia and Africa, Tata Communications.

There’s no denying that in the modern world people are accustomed to having content at their fingertips and with as little delay as possible. It’s this behaviour that is driving a change in the media landscape, and adding fuel to the rising tension between OTT providers and live broadcasters who have not yet embraced OTT programming. As OTT providers deliver video and media content over the internet, broadcasters continue to show live event viewing and fight to keep hold of their share of viewers’ attention. While many are unaware of the full effect of this shift, it has created a hugely complicated broadcast and media landscape.

A priority for players battling the media war is ensuring content is available on demand, this above all is a necessity in today’s ‘on demand economy’. Unlike generations before, today’s viewers no longer have to watch content that isn’t interesting or completely tailored to their interests, they have content on tap. Services such as BBC iPlayer and Hulu have created an environment where people can plan their viewing around their own schedule, rather than having to be around at 8pm on a Saturday night, for example, to watch their favourite show.

With 76% high speed broadband penetration, 77% digital TV connectivity, and over 100% mobile device penetration, the Middle East region is on the threshold of this phenomenon and poised for growth and a rapid uptake of TV-Everywhere services according to Frost & Sullivan.

As use of Video on Demand (VoD) services has continued to grow globally, the Middle East is currently experiencing a healthy demand for subscription VOD services, evidenced by a healthy penetration of online video streaming - as much as 50% in key GCC and Levant markets according to Deloitte’s report, which also cites consumer surveys that report their willingness to pay a premium for a high quality and differentiated content service.

The same report highlights how the high smartphone penetration and the popularity of social media has inspired the rise of social TV: an emerging trend in the region which combines social media usage with TV watching trends, like Al Jazeera’s The Stream and Peeta Planet together increasing mobile media access – with 70% of MBC’s Shahid.net viewers accessing its website through their mobile phones.

What these shifts in consumption behaviour highlight is that it is no longer about having one great product, but creating an experience that pulls the consumer in across multiple channels, and gives them the choice. Red Bull is a great example of this, while it is a huge drinks brand, it has also been an innovator in content delivery. Case in point, the main goal of the Red Bull Stratos mission was to transcend human limits, no mean feat for a brand of any size. The event saw Felix Baumgartner make waves in the media when he broke the speed of sound in a freefall from the stratosphere, the first to do so. It captured the interest of people all over the world, actually breaking the record for number of concurrent live streams for its YouTube showcase and reaching 8 million viewers, gathered valuable data for future space exploration, and was delivered online through everything except traditional broadcast channels.

The stunt signaled something very different for the media landscape. It was a major viewing event delivered beyond traditional television and without the involvement of a traditional TV broadcast. It was evidence that, thanks to the explosion of multichannel, multi-device delivery, anyone can be a broadcaster, and they can reach their audience just about anywhere.

Another example is in the arena of sport. The experience associated with sport is one that is known to unite people and bring out a passion that is unprecedented. Whether it’s attending games, playing, watching from a device or talking about sport, loyal followers are invested in it. Just like any form of entertainment, sports have had to evolve and grow with the desires of their loyal fans. If sports were played in the way they once were, the variations would be a far cry from what we see today, so it’s no surprise that as an industry it has continued to evolve, with technology spurring on many of the changes.

Getting sport that people love delivered to fans in a way that is convenient to them and with an increased level of engagement is becoming more of a reality for many sporting mediums, and one that immediately comes to mind is Formula One, the leader in motorsports, which is taking big strides towards housing online content and crafting a hub for its fans beyond traditional TV. With tonnes of content at its fingertips, stunning visuals, and a nature that is extremely competitive and gripping, the F1 website will only continue to show these assets and pull in new viewers, attracted by the rich, live experience it provides.

For companies that have kept ahead and offer multi-channel experiences, they know first-hand that it’s completely unrestrictive, and as a result gives them a competitive edge. Companies in the spotlight like Red Bull and Formula One may be leading the way in altering their content offering, to adhere to the new needs of the modern day consumer, but this isn’t the only development that is occurring in the media industry, and more specifically the sports world. While the delivery of this feed to those watching it live or streaming highlights on their tablet continues to evolve, sports disciplines worldwide are starting to use heightened engagement as ammunition to captivate fans and is one to watch pave the way.

Non-traditional distribution

The reality for broadcasters is undeniable: TV is no longer the sole output for broadcast content – with people viewing their programmes and consuming content on PCs, smartphones, tablets, smart TVs and games consoles.Whilst the shift away from watching a favourite show at a set time on a set day may not have happened overnight, it has finally hit a point where many of those that were slow to respond to the OTT competition are feeling the consequences. It is certainly on the minds of television executives and the media companies. Broadcasters, therefore, are focusing on delivering content in multiple ways – whether that’s across a satellite or IP network or to a 4K TV as opposed to a smartphone screen.

As a result, non-traditional distribution is the emerging megatrend for the broadcasting industry right now – a revolution which is a dramatic and wide-reaching change in behaviour and operation. Changes in consumer behaviour, owed to more powerful mobile devices and more ubiquitous access to connectivity, are forcing the hands of broadcasters to innovate further and find new ways of delivering content to the viewing public.

Broadcasting in the cloud: paving the way for the future?

Right now, there is a lot of attention on broadcasting in the cloud as the next big thing in supporting and simplifying non-traditional distribution. So what role could the cloud innovation play in the future?

Broadcast cloud technology has developed very quickly over the last five years. It is now possible to upload broadcast quality content direct from a production location, edit it remotely, review and approve it by global teams, add metadata, transcode it into different formats, and play it out as a channel – all in the cloud. The technology exists and is available now.

Cloud-based software allows media companies to scale capacity as required – for production companies, working predominantly on projects with varying data requirements, this is a highly flexible solution. For broadcasters with more of an “always-on” approach, this allows for additional capacity as required. The pay-as-you-go nature of cloud services also means that it’s possible to make significant cost savings.

Finally, the cloud allows for stability. As the cloud works 24/7 and media service providers are required to be available at all times, cloud services offer a reliable solution that keeps everything working day and night. This allows broadcasters to deliver compelling content to their audience, regardless of the time. The result: stable cloud services teamed with a reliable and secure internet connection, meaning broadcasters can count on the cloud in our increasingly “always on” media landscape.

So, the cloud is good news for broadcasters, making operators’ lives easier through collaboration with anyone, in any location and at any time, with a flexible solution that can be scaled to fit requirements.

This new era of cloud broadcasting is developing rapidly and is a game-changing technology in such a competitive market. While still in its infancy, the cloud is an opportunity for forward-thinking broadcasters to pave the way to the future of broadcasting.

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