Consolidating, blending and creating new TV hybrids are a bit like the evolution of the smart-phone…potentially brilliant, but challenging. Where we are today and which is quite real is the creation of combined broadcast and internet streaming services that are interestingly a logical extension of the television tradition and which are gaining traction.
The blending of broadcast and broadband has been hoped for many years, while still in the development stage is being recognized as “the” next step. For example, in the EU there is the HbbTV standard (Hybrid broadcast broadband TV), which enables a common interface for TV within a STB, this was one of the first pioneers. In fact the number of HbbTV receivers are in the millions, so this market acceptance is firmly in place and ready to expand.
In the US and North America this evolution has not taken hold as firmly until recently when you count TVs with internet connections. New devices designed to appeal to “cord cutters/shavers/never been’s & shifters” are more prone to view their content on Tivo, Roku or Tablo and that are starting to populate the IP navigation market.
So what is driving this shift, well there are some recent announcements that may drive this shift. Amazon will start to sell a smart device called the FireTV Recast, that combines Over-the-air (OTA) and IP/broadband into a single box and also has available a cloud based DVR. Very smart and actually cool! There’s one little draw back though at this stage and that is that it does require a bit of a set-up process, however that should change soon with market acceptance. In fact there’s a new consumer alliance formed to help just – flexvu.tv.
What has really caught the attention of the entire market is the shrinking of traditional pay TV subscribership in North America which is a trend that can not be ignored. From whom those not subscribing to a traditional pay TV service will start to access their content is changing and with Amazon’s release of its new Fire device believes that viewers may also be ready to install an antenna too and combine that with streaming services.
Then comes distribution ie “pipes.” South Korean and a few U.S. broadcasters (Sinclair and Pearl) are exploring an interesting way to bring IP and broadcast elements together with a evolved TV platform, ATSC 3.0, which I have mentioned before and presented at NAB. In this system, content (before transmission) can be prepared prior to being sent out over the air and then simultaneously over IP/broadband networks. ATSC 3.0 is being tested by U.S. broadcasters and there are a few operational and financial issues to address, but overall it’s looking very deployable. It will be a few years before it is integrated into the U.S. TV ecosystem, but will be here before 5G is broadly available.
But why would broadcasters go down this path and in many ways trouble to get in the streaming business? Well, if they don’t they know they will be left behind and not able to catch up. It’s moving that fast after all, there are now services that stream to be viewed over traditional pay TV networks, free OTA signals as well as IP.
Skinny bundles that can be efficiently distributed over both IP and TV are rapidly being explored, so the smart broadcaster is experimenting to see how they can adjust their model to capture new viewers versus loosing existing ones.
But, broadcast platforms continue to provide the most reliable and embraced live TV distribution, especially with the instability of most IP networks and inefficiencies of current batch of codecs that really are not able to provide high quality picture – which is critical. But while current broadcast distribution still has the broadest reach and is at this time more efficient, this will change once the IP bandwidth is sufficient to meet all the demand.
Next discussion: Knowing your audience, the real market motivator!