Changing expectations


Dick Hobbs. TV-Bay Magazine
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by Dick Hobbs
Issue 90 - June 2014

I can remember when Ericsson made mobile phones. Now they are a major player in television playout or, as we now have to call it, delivering content.

Interestingly, they also carry out extensive research, and have their own forecasting group which is looking at the way the business is changing. They have published a paper on their vision of the world of media in the years up to 2020. You can download the paper at http://bit.ly/1jatJw8

2020 sounds a long way off, but it will be with us in the blink of an eye. If you are not careful, I will still be here inside the back cover of TV-Bay, rambling away each month.
By then, the world will contain nine billion people. Between them, they will have 15 billion video-enabled broadband devices connected to the internet, of which half will be mobile. Ericsson describes this as the realisation of the networked society.

In part, this will see the ultimate achievement of the TV anywhere movement. Close to a decade ago, I think it was me that coined the expression consumers demand the content they want, when they want it, and where they want it. That, in part, is what we will see when Ericssons prediction comes true.

But I am not convinced that all those broadband connections will be keeping up to date with the cricket, or watching the inexplicably popular Game of Thrones (The Hobbit with nudity). They will be watching other video content, material from sources other than broadcasters or producers.

Nine years ago, I stopped off in Houston on my way back from NAB, to talk to a doctor at a gleaming research hospital. He was working on a project which involved video to the desktop. The idea was simple: a patient comes in to hospital; is diagnosed and told they need a simple procedure; doctor shows patient a five minute video of how simple the procedure really is, with previous patients saying how there was no pain and the treatment was completely effective; patient signs forms and books appointment.

Once I had recovered from watching the excision of a skin cancer, I had to agree with him that this was an excellent application of video, and together we talked about ways of delivering it around an office network so it arrived quickly and still retained good quality.

The same idea applies in other fields. The publishers of this splendid journal are both keen cyclists, and another group of my friends will be in lycra and somewhere between Lands End and John OGroats as you read this. If I wanted to set up a bike to join them (admittedly an unlikely scenario) there are no end of videos available, made by the component manufacturers, that show you how to assemble their gizmos.

So all those connected devices will be showing broadcast content and also semi-pro content, of varying qualities. I think we can also be sure that the home video will still be going strong. Whatever the 2020 equivalent of the Mento/Coke effect will still be doing the rounds. All those video-enabled mobile devices will be creating as well as displaying content. SnapChat will be video.

The difference between then and now, or perhaps between then and a year or two ago, was that you watched broadcast quality content on a television, and you watched YouTube on a computer. The implication of the realised networked society is that TV anywhere means any source on any device.

I recently had the chance for a long conversation with the always interesting Maya Severyn from Chellomedia. As always she said a lot of interesting things, but we talked about the idea of broadcasting as we know it going away and everything being streamed, something she thinks will happen soon.

I said what I always say when being a dull old man thinking about broadcasting, which is that the absolute fundamental we work on and which the IT industry still cannot get its head around is that we need a new picture every 40 milliseconds. Not want, need. Not about every 40ms, or most 40ms, but every 40ms.

Maya gently and calmly explained to me that those might be my expectations, but they are not the expectations of the generation which has grown up with video games, YouTube and streamed video. Someone of my considerable age might get exercised by the odd dropped frame, but those who have developed their viewing habits without that expectation might not even notice the odd stutter.

And I suspect she is right. Going back to the Ericsson paper, they describe todays viewing experience as scheduled viewing of programming; binge viewing of series on demand; early use of social engagement and interaction, which by 2020 becomes consistent consumer interaction with content extending to social interaction, betting, gaming, live and immersive; increase in realtime consumer content within programming.

Put simply, it will not be TV everywhere, at least as we used to know it. It will be content everywhere, with all that implies for creative and technical quality. The next half decade may be about shifting our expectations.


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Contributing Author Dick Hobbs.

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