If you're in the business of media, you're in the business of change. On every front, at every step of the workflow, evolving digital, production and satellite technologies are driving the industry and impacting the way content is produced, managed and delivered to the world.

We exhibited highlights of our TV & Media portfolio at Content & Communications World (CCW), a two-day media event November 11-12 in New York covering television, film, satellite, production and post-production, online video and live events. CCW was acquired by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) two years ago and has morphed into the “East Coast NAB,” growing its significance on the East Coast for all TV players. It is widely recognized by exhibitors as far more than a regional event, drawing participants from all over the US and beyond. More than 300 exhibiting companies and 7,000 attendees do business together every year at CCW.

Our TV & Media experts showed the following demos at the Ericsson CCW booth:

  • Broadcast Managed Services portfolio covering online video and playout as well as content discovery and access services
  • Launch of our new VOD Infrastructure solution, based on our existing Video Storage and Processing Platform (VSPP) as well as new enhancements for different types of Cloud DVR deployment
  • In the Contribution and Distribution space, we showcased the expanded nCompass Connector, integrating it with Scheduall, and providing an interface to billing and back-office systems in addition to network management systems
  • Ericsson AVP 4000 which uniquely offers best-in-class CBR and VBR picture quality, with the latest PQ developments on show alongside Mezzanine and Converged encoding
  • Best-of-breed Software Defined Video Processing solutions.

Beside our presence in the exhibition area, Ericsson had two speakers at CCW.

Content Curation, Consumption and User Interface

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Content Curation, Consumption and User Interface

Moderator: Bob Zitter, Media Technology Advisor, (previously head of technology at HBO)

Panelists:

Scott Rosenberg, VP of Development, Roku

Anupam Gupta, EVP, Product & Cloud Services, Vubiquity, Inc.

Steve Plunkett, CTO, Ericsson Broadcast and Media Services

In an age of expanding content choices and a growing array of delivery platforms, viewers are increasingly challenged by obstacles to content search across their various platforms. Consumers want to be able to seamlessly discover and play any of the program options available to them, without moving in and out of different platforms and apps. The panel discussed the current options in the market for content discovery and UI, and the importance of audience engagement and ease of use when addressing content search. What are the consumer’s demands and challenges? How can content curation, consumption and UI be improved? Content is king, but it seems like content discovery is equally important in a world where the amount of content presented to consumers is often overwhelming.

Steve Plunkett presented the 2015 Ericsson ConsumerLab TV & Media research study into content discovery and the need for a seamless experience for consumers.

  • What type of on-demand services are people using in the US? The most used service by far is YouTube, followed by Netflix as a strong second. The most impressive growth numbers compared with last year can be found for Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO and abc.com’s catch-up service.
  • 67 percent of people are able to watch internet content on their TV screens at home, and 89 percent of these feel they can access all or most of the apps and services they want.
  • Today, 61 percent of consumers watch TV and video content on their smartphones, a 71 percent increase since 2012.
  • Another important component to the equation is the fact that 42 percent think it is very important to be able to watch their TV and video content wherever they are.
  • TV services also have different roles in people’s lives depending on their generation. There isn’t just one consumer, and you need to understand the different groups in order to offer them what they want. Older people and parents have a different approach than kids and millennials. The main go-to services for the older generations include linear TV, the DVR, play/catch-up services and YouTube, while the younger generations primarily turn to S-VOD, piracy, play and catch-up services, and YouTube.

Steve ended the ConsumerLab presentation by discussing the importance of a seamless experience. TV/video consumers are growing increasingly frustrated by technology, devices, boxes, remote controls and cables. There’s little added value in having TV/video technology on display. Consumers strive for a solution that is compatible with their tech setup at home, where there is as little obvious technology as possible; ideally it is not even visible. Forty six percent of consumers are quite interested in a service that offers live TV with VOD which would work on any device they own as an integrated experience.

Talking about Content Discovery and UI, Scott Rosenberg, VP of Development at Roku, mentioned their market entry into the OTT space in 2007 and their success factors. Roku excels at simplicity and ease of experience. The app-based paradigm gives the TV players and content owners the option to develop a powerful UI. When it comes to innovation, he said that they have more opportunities to innovate than linear players, that the ecosystem is opening up and that new experiences are developing. They are currently working on a universal search solution. When it comes to obstacles in this fragmented world, Scott said a lot of work needs to be done around metadata discovery, authentication and measurements. The ingredients for a successful future TV service are a seamless back-end and front-end integration with discovery and search, monetization and analytics.

Anupam Gupta, EVP for Product & Cloud Services at Vubiquity, said they are the premium content services company. He mentioned the disruptive industry of distributors who are evolving from pure pay-TV to OTT, and the need for all players to have their content catalogs available via IP and not only over set-top boxes. Important factors include metadata and consistency between apps, front-end and back-end. There is a need to work on interoperability between different platforms and devices to make content discovery successful in this fragmented world of content. Universal search, a good browsing experience, a good UI, recommendations and consistency are essential.

Our Steve Plunkett talked about the challenges in a world of more platform and content choices, and how programmers can find a better way to expose their content. Steve mentioned the important of good metadata and the need for personalized data from consumers to make a personalized experience possible. He also talked about the challenges to niche players, who won’t survive if consumers don’t find their content. Ericsson is currently conducting a personalization research project to experiment on what consumers want.

When it comes to privacy and data security, Steve said that trust is the most important ingredient. Recommendations rely on good data, and data requires trust: the basis for this is transparency about how the consumer’s data will be used.

In the end, all the panelists talked about the future of consumer interfaces in the transition from newspaper TV guides to EPG grids and now apps. What’s next? There is lots of potential in voice recognition, smartphones as a remote for the mass market, and motion detection.

Bob Zitter wrapped up the panel discussion by talking about HBO and how piracy can be beaten by reasonable prices among streaming services. The success of HBO go and HBO Now rely on the analysis of usage data to see what consumers want. It has proven successful at keeping audiences honest – when you offer them good enough options.

Television Futures: Ultra HD with HDR

Television Futures: Ultra HD with HDR

Moderator: Matthew Goldman, SVP Technology, TV Compression at Ericsson

Panelists:

Eric Grab, Co-CTO, NeuLion

Renard Jenkins, Senior Director Operations, PBS

Steve Corda, VP Business Development N. America, SES

Stan Moote, CTO, IABM

The impact of Ultra HD with HDR and other related technologies will be one of the biggest change in the user experience since the transition to color.

The Ultra HD Forum is bringing together market leaders from every part of the industry – broadcasters, service providers, consumer electronics and technology vendors – to collaborate on solving real-world challenges, and accelerating Ultra HD deployment. Coordination with standards organizations such as MPEG, DVB and SMPTE will help bring order to what seems to be a chaotic world where there are just too many alternatives to invest in these future services. This panel discussed the challenges of UHD and a path towards a bright future for television.

Ericsson is a founding member of the Ultra HD Forum: the forum has 38 member companies whose mission is to stimulate widespread consumer adoption of UHD and enhanced HD by enabling the availability of compelling content from many sources and its distribution through all current and emerging avenues of delivery to consumers. The scope is to facilitate interoperability test and trials, create a central repository for relevant UHD workflows, and to provide a way to educate the industry on UHD (including production of white papers and presentations at major industry events). www.ultrahdforum.org.

Matthew Goldman explained the ingredients for an immersive viewing experience. What does UHD mean? The immersive experience is composed of six elements:

  1. Immersive Audio: full sound field including height plus personalizable features (such as controlling the volume of an individual dialog channel, separate from music or other sounds)
  2. Image resolution: more pixels
  3. High Dynamic Range (HDR): contrast from deepest blacks to brightest whites, and higher peak white level
  4. Wide Color Gamut (WCG): more realistic colors
  5. Higher Sample Precision (bit depth): more bits (10b vs. 8b) used to represent the digital samples, thereby minimizing artifacts such as banding
  6. High Frame Rate: better represents motion and details in high-motion content such as sports and nature programs.

What’s next? “HDR+”, which is a combination of HDR, WCG and higher sample precision. Today’s UHD (UHD-1 Phase 1) only includes high image resolution (4K). In UHD-1 Phase 2, HDR+ is included, for real-time deployments starting 2017-2018. For OTT and disc delivery of motion pictures, the new Ultra HD Blu-ray® Disc format defines a HDR+ format that the Consumer Technology Association calls the “HDR10 Media Profile”. For UHD, it specifies SMPTE ST 2084 HDR transfer function, SMPTE ST 2086 HDR static metadata, SMPTE ST 2020 WCG, 10-bit sample depth, and High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) compression.

There are two different ways to achieve the HDR transfer function: SMPTE ST 2084 Perceptual Quantizer (PQ) or ARIB (Japanese standards organization) STD-B67 Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG). As noted above, Hollywood motion pictures use PQ, but there is growing interest in using HLG for live productions because it does not require metadata.

What does that mean for broadcasters?

  • UHD-1 Phase 1: ready today (4K image resolution only)
  • UHD-1 Phase 2 “a” HDR+: ready for deployment 2017-2018
  • UHD-1 Phase 2 “b”, HFR: ready for deployment 2019-2020

One comment on viewing 4K images: your ability to resolve the detail depends on the viewing distance from the screen – screen size vs viewing distance. For example, at a distance of 2.5m, you need at least a 60-inch (152.4cm) screen. If you are sitting further away, then you only resolve (“see”) HD on your UHD screen. People will have to change the way they watch TV for 4K – either by purchasing a larger screen or sitting much closer to the screen than they do when watching HD.

HDR+ does not depend on the viewing distance from the screen.

Most televisions now are full HD (1080p), but they do not support HDR. Is HDR backwards compatible? Partially – it depends on the scheme used. It is currently only being discussed in terms of UHD-1 Phase 2 being backwards compatible to UHD-1 Phase 1. Backwards compatibility to today’s conventional HD (720p or 1080i) is not being discussed.

Color is the only thing that is really backwards compatible (to black & white). HD is not backwards compatible to SD. That is why we use simulcast. The same will probably happen now with UHD.

Eric Grab, Co-CTO of NeuLion, offering live sports over the internet, discussed the challenge of different profiles in UHD and the rapid pace of UHD.

He likened HDR to horsepower: More is better . The objective is to make it look more realistic but not too bright.

There are some good experiments with UHD live: Sky Deutschland did a UHD live soccer event.

Enhanced HD [that is,1080p + HDR+] is an alternative for UHD when it comes to distribution over the internet.

There is a big jump in quality from an HD TV to a UHD TV. It will take a long time for the industry to make the TVs affordable for the main target group with a price around USD 1000.

Eric also said that people will sit closer to their TV screens in the future to appreciate more details. This also happened with the change from SD to HD, something nobody expected in the beginning.

He also asked whether there will be two workflows, for HDR and SDR streams, and said that backwards compatibility is important.

Renard Jenkins, Senior Director for Operations at PBS, said that most cameras are moving towards UHD. He said the industry is not ready for a 24/7 UHD channel, but will be ready by 2018/2020.

“There is no actor in the world who wants to be shot in 4K”.

Steve Corda, VP for Business Development in North America at satellite operator SES, said that UHD is all about the content and so far there is not a lot of content available. For now it is a VOD experience.

Everything has been studio content so far, apart from one concert in Berlin with many different UHD cameras.

Another comment was that as TV/display prices fall, people are getting more TVs in different rooms.

Stan Moote, CTO for IABM (the trade association representing digital media players), discussed the power issues of having TV sets that are too bright.

He said 1080p upscaled to UHD looks good. And he also touched on the screen size vs viewing distance issue: people cannot see the difference between 1080p and 4K UHD when they are sitting too far away from the screen.

Backwards compatibility is important, as is metadata.

Stan also discussed one production aspect: People are shooting in 4K to produce HD (in post). If we move over to 4K, people will need to produce in 8K.