It may seem odd to write about trends for 2020 when over half the year has already passed. But such has been the impact of Covid-19 that most predictions made at the end of last year have been impacted, some more than others by the effects the pandemic has had on the way we work, the technology we deploy to deliver video content and life in general.
While the overall trends are much the same, their development has been affected, often accelerated both by changes in consumption and, as importantly, by the requirement for remote working imposed by lockdowns. So what does that mean for the rest of this year and beyond?
It will almost certainly strengthen the deployment of cloud based architectures for both broadcast and IT infrastructures as 5G arrives to deliver improved access. This is especially important for remote working as it offers the promise of a step change in operating workflows and, for example the prospect of smaller MCRs where a good proportion of tasks can be handled off-site in real time.
At the same time, the use of AI technologies to improve distribution, whether it’s routing decisions and the avoidance of network bottlenecks to minimise latency or the augmentation of end user experiences becomes increasingly important. Content is clearly still king but the better the user experience while selecting and viewing that content the less chance there is of subscriber churn. This is especially important in the OTT sector where subscriber numbers are increasing in almost every market and consumption is rising exponentially. As a result, managing and augmenting user experience and expectations become even more important issues. Hence, an acceleration towards the use of AI technology that was already growing rapidly with deployments by Netflix, Viacom, Sky, Liberty, Cox, the BBC and others to improve product recommendations and viewer engagement within both catch up and on-demand services of all kinds.
But AI has so many other workflow applications that will continue to change the way content is produced, managed and distributed. And the automation of those workflows is likely to reduce costs too as, for example ingest, transcoding and QC become increasingly powered by AI.
The flexibility and efficiencies offered by cloud based technologies is obvious when compared to the legacy systems that once dominated the sector. This is especially so in the multiple platform distribution market where most applications centre on content management, playout, localisation and distribution management. It’s likely that broadcasters will continue to adopt these technologies and companies that offer them will gather pace and strength as content owners and networks continue to focus on content creation and outsource the management of the distribution of that content.
But this promise of a new era of a cloud based, superfast 5G delivered world is dependent on them working together. That in itself will rely on new technologies and some new ways of making things happen. This is where we start to break the data down into even more reusable component parts that are collectively described as cloud-native applications that can integrate into any cloud environment. Rather than one large application, cloud-native microservices can be managed individually thus delivering more scalability and flexibility.
But what about timescales and deliverables? Is all of this about to happen and change the distribution of video and entertainment and the way they are consumed overnight? Hardly! While the infrastructures are increasingly in place, making them work effectively together to develop the full benefits of both will be an evolution rather than a revolution. Some commentators believe that we won’t start to see the real benefits of an integrated 5G and cloud delivery infrastructure until at least the middle of 2021 and possibly further out than that. And there will undoubtedly be territorial fast and slow lanes in which the rollout is dependent on other factors determined by post Covid-19 economics and appetite for more change. Meanwhile, the dependable, trusted, proven satellite and content delivery platforms we know and love will continue to work for us for many years to come.