IBC2014: Notes from the show floor – Pushing TV everywhere

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I think it might have been me, a decade ago, who first used the expression “consumers are looking for the video they want, when they want it, on the device they want it”. It was in quite common usage for a while. Nowadays, no-one has time for such verbosity, so the talk is of TV Everywhere.

The other difference between then and now, of course, is that now we have the technology to do it. Some would argue that we have too much technology for it – there are an awful lot of different devices out there that have different requirements.

In the world outside IBC, for example, Apple has just launched not one but two new screen sizes. One of the IBC Award winners is sending live opera to 4k Ultra HD televisions. And IBC’s own television station has gone from a breakfast show to a 24 hour online rolling news stream.

Encoding

As a consumer, I expect to pick up the device, select what I want to watch and have it play flawlessly. I do not want to have to change settings or wait for content to process or put up with jittery or blocky video.

Traditionally, that has meant the service provider encoding the video into the ever-increasing number of formats required and storing it on a bank of servers ready for the content delivery network.

But chatting to Steve Reynolds, CTO of Imagine Communications, I hear that this may not be the way forward. “We are getting to a tipping point between the cost of storage and the cost of encoding,” he told me. “We can move to just-in-time encoding and packaging.”

Revenue

Do I, as a consumer, care whether the content is encoded in advance or when I want to watch it? Probably not.

But if I was running the service, I would be quite excited by this. Encoding on demand means the content can be tailored to the subscriber requesting it. In particular, you can target the advertising by specific demographics, even down to the individual.

I recently had a conversation with a UK broadcaster which had recently moved to ad replacements in its streamed feed. Her view was that targeted advertising allowed the channel to get closer to its audience, and was therefore less intrusive.

Relationship

Obviously streaming content is a one-to-one relationship, so you know who is seeing the content. But that also means you can see how they react to advertising. Do they watch or do they move away?

According to my UK contact, they get around 70% see-through with conventional digital advertising, but 96% when the commercials are targeted to the user. That is the sort of statistic that has a real impact on revenues.

“TV Everywhere is changing the way the industry does business,” Reynolds said, adding “for the good”.

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