We’ve been in the TV-over-IP business for over 10 years now and it’s hard to think of a more exciting time for this relatively young industry. We’re witnessing the disruption of conventional distribution models, personalised ads are creating a return to higher advertising revenues and there is a complete shift in the way we consume our TV.
We are now watching whenever we want to and on any device we want to. All of this is leading to a massive change in the way our TV is delivered – as we move from broadcast to unicast.
In the ‘early days’, IPTV was still basically a broadcast service. But that time has already passed. Soon, every person watching a show will be demanding their own personalised unicast stream across the network. This would be hard enough to deliver in SD quality – but with HD, and now 4K, this puts an immense strain on the delivery network.
Of course the way much of the industry has addressed this is to distribute content over general-purpose CDN services. But one thing we really saw at IBC in Amsterdam is how many people are looking for other solutions.
We know Netflix have solved their scale problems by building their own CDN for TV delivery. And the same is true for lots of our customers. And it became evident as we spoke to broadcasters, content owners, telcos and cable operators at this year’s IBC, that this is a trend we should expect to see more often.
Why? Well a few reasons. Generic CDN services are a great solution if you don’t have too many viewers, or they are widely dispersed. But as services become more successful, and the capacity per viewer increases with 4K, there is little economy of scale to be gained by distributing across someone else’s service.
So cost is a prime factor. But perhaps even more important is quality. Customers are telling us that the only way they can take control over the quality of the viewing experience – eliminating buffering, delays and glitches – is to take control of their own delivery system. And the third reason is insight and analytics – being able to understand exactly how their programmes were experienced.
This doesn’t mean everyone is building their own fibre network – although of course telco and cable TV operators already have networks where they can easily overlay their own TV CDNs. But major TV broadcasters, like TVB in Honk Kong, are also taking the same approach, by placing their TV delivery systems closer to their viewers at internet exchange points.
We’ve been attending IBC for many years now, and seen a number of major industry shifts. But for me this year’s change was clear. Viewers are expecting amazing things from their TV. It doesn’t matter whether it’s 4K or virtual reality TV, whether it’s Cloud DVR services or personalised ads. Content is still the most valuable part of the viewers’ experience — and TV providers are looking to ensure that content is delivered in an amazing way, by taking control over their own content delivery.
First published at www.ibcce.org on October 10, 2016
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