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19 September, 2011 - Source: Red Bee Media

Each year, IBC presents a great opportunity to see what our industry is doing, hear what it is saying and find out where it is going. 

This year was no different and the volume of visitors, exhibitors and some great speakers showcased an industry in good health with an exciting, if somewhat unpredictable, future. Having listened to and participated in a number of conference sessions, chatted with many customers, vendors and colleagues and shortened the lifespan of my shoes wandering the vast exhibition halls, here are my top ten trends of IBC 2011 in no particular order.

1. Multi-platform TV

This was a major theme, as it has been for a while, with lots of vendors demonstrating their wares and plenty of discussion about TV on many screens. The fundamentals are now in place to deliver on this vision and the focus is no longer on how to deliver video to an increasing variety of devices but how to do it more efficiently, at higher quality, and with better security. There was debate about optimal monetisation and business models (the answer being it depends, so ensure you have flexibility and sophistication to experiment).

One area I felt was not explored enough is the user experience (UX). It’s not enough to just get video on your smart phone, tablet, PC, connected TV or games console. It’s important to take advantage of the individual device capabilities and also provide a consistent experience across them all. Multi-platform TV should be an integrated rather than a discrete experience. We need more creatives at IBC, less boffins and more luvvies.

2. Mobile

Mobile TV has had a few false dawns but the pre-requisites – video capable devices, affordable and adequate bandwidth, application frameworks – are falling into place. The next generation of Mobile TV is here and with a little less fanfare it will finally live up to its promise.

3. TV Playout

The hardware to software trend continues to gather pace. Slowly but surely we are seeing software centric playout solutions mature and provide realistic alternatives to distributed hardware components. This is good news as software allows a more rapid pace of innovation and consolidation will reduce costs.

4. Dual Screen

This is one area that could genuinely revolutionise the way we experience TV. Research confirms that many of us watch TV while using a second screen. It allows us to more deeply explore the subject matter on the big screen but today this happens in an ad-hoc fashion. Going forward, programme makers, broadcasters and advertisers will be able to reach out more directly and intimately with their audience, extending and enriching the experience. I am particularly excited by the possibilities this will offer in the future.

5. 3D

Some spectacular showcases on display but increasingly 3D looks like an important niche rather than a mainstream activity. The cinema experience can, sometimes, be dramatically enhanced by 3D. Gaming can also take advantage of this medium to great effect. But what about 3D TV at home? The technology industry consistently over-estimates the short term impact of new technologies and under-estimates the long term impact. At this point we can state that more and more people will have 3D capable sets at home (whether they buy them for that reason or not) so let’s see how the content community takes advantage of the technology.

6. Super Hi-Vision

Yes, this does look fantastic – like Blu-ray is to VHS but in a (really) big screen format. The best way I can describe this is related to the distance from the screen. When you watch an SD image on a 42” TV from across a room it looks good, but up close it looks rubbish. HD solves this for a 42” screen and SH-V does the same for an 82” screen. I walked up to the huge screen at IBC and it looked just as good up close. You still have lots of time to start saving for that 120" screen (and a bigger house).

7. Social TV

Some very interesting discussion on this. TV has always been a social experience so it makes sense that as our social interactions extend to the online world, so too will our experience of TV. I have to be partisan here and say that our own TV Genius are doing some really cool stuff in this area (that’s why we bought them!) and so are many others, so watch this space.

8. Live Streaming

Online video has largely been an on-demand experience to date, but live event based viewing off the traditional TV is growing fast. Appointment to view television can now reach other screens and more specialist audiences – IP based delivery can be more cost effective so look out for niche content from smaller producers and experimentation from the large broadcasters.

9. Content Discovery

The advent of digital television and now online video has one obvious outcome – vastly more choice. This has to be good news but how do we sort the wheat from the chaff based on our own particular interests? We are faced with what has been described as a tyranny of choice. Technology can help – recommendation engines can augment the role of traditional channel controllers to promote content to the viewer based on an understanding of what you like and what other people like. Signpost me to what my past behaviour suggests I might like but mix it up slightly and surprise me with interesting alternatives. This requires a careful blend of algorithms, editorial selection and behavioural psychology.

10. Television

Despite all the technological advances we have seen at IBC 2011, one thing is clear. Good old fashioned linear TV is still hugely popular so let’s not forget that content is king and nothing can replace great drama, sport, news and everything else that keeps us tuned in for four hours per day every day of the year.

Steve Plunkett, Director of Technology & Innovation

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