Hot or Not: Top broadcast industry technology trends for 2017

Key lessons from broadcasters and their technology providers

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On 1st December 2016, MTM hosted the third Technology Pathfinders forum, a professional network for senior broadcasting and media industry executives interested in the latest technology developments and innovations. The theme for the evening was Hot or Not? What are the technology trends that will impact the UK TV market over the next five years.

To help guide us past the peak of inflated expectations and through the trough of disillusionment we had an expert panel comprising Jon Williams, MD & CEO of Pixsan, Nic Brisbourne, Managing Partner at Forward Partners, Orpheus Warr, CTO at Channel 4, Phil Aspden, Business Development Director at Babcock and Richard Lindsay-Davis, CEO of the Digital TV Group.

Rise of the machines: Data, analytics and AI

As TV consumption moves to connected devices, broadcasters and TV providers are acquiring ever-increasing quantities of data and insight. Our panel were unanimous in their belief that big data will help unlock the answers to consumer engagement, creating frameworks for monitoring and flagging specific user behaviours, and re-shaping the way we find content.

However, the panel disagreed on the importance of AI and deep learning. While two panellists claimed that AI will have marginal impact on the TV industry, one panellist was adamant that deep learning and artificial intelligence will play a crucial role going forwards, drawing out insights and correlations that would not be feasible with traditional analytics tools.

“As broadcast is being reversed into by IT, IT is being changed by deep learning. It will drive the pace of change and be a fundamental enabler of better TV – through voice recognition, recommendations, intelligent security, data mining, improved quality of service.”

The new (virtual) reality TV

The next theme of the evening was new forms of content creation opened up by new platforms, such as social networks or Virtual Reality (VR) headsets. The panel agreed that social media platforms will have a larger impact the TV industry more than VR. As the barriers to entry in the social video space are basically zero, there has been a proliferation of new content creators, driving new user behaviours. On the other hand, only half the panel expected VR to be an impactful technology for TV over the next five years, instead expecting take-up to be driven by gaming.

“Big platform changes is what enables big new businesses to come – in news, social media has turned it on its head, changed the way that we create and consume news… I’m not sure [VR], on the other hand, will have a big impact on overall TV viewing”

Boxes, pucks, and sticks

Finally, the panel discussed hardware trends. While 4K and Ultra HD were largely perceived to not provide enough viewing difference to the average consumer, one panellist was excited about the prospects for HD HDR technology, offering better colour, contrast and brightness at a relatively low cost.

Our panellists then moved on to discuss the integration between TV devices as part of the Internet of Things (IoT). As low-cost dongles help drive connected TV penetration, such as the Amazon FireTV stick and Chromecast, the panel agreed that the next step is connecting TVs to smart speakers and home hubs, such as Amazon Echo or Google Home. Going forward, two panellists claimed that the proliferation of sensors and ability to gather new forms of geographic and behavioural data will be strong drivers of future TV developments.

“Low-cost devices are changing the way that people are consuming TV – you can turn your TV into a smart TV for £30, enabling you to move to IP delivery … The TV is increasingly connected to the overall IoT ecosystem. As Amazon and Google are battling it out, I think that we are going to see a lot of change in the next few years.”

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