In September, the media and entertainment industry will once again be heading to the RAI Amsterdam for the annual IBC event. For Hall 5 exhibitors, this year is particularly special as it marks the tenth anniversary of Content Everywhere as the heart of IBC’s coverage of the ever-expanding OTT scene.
Nearly 150 companies will be exhibiting in Content Everywhere, and some forty companies are making their debuts at IBC as part of the Content Everywhere community.
A unique feature of this part of the show is the Content Everywhere stage programme, which producer Ian Volans has been running since its inception. He notes that this ever popular free-to-attend programme of panel discussions and product demonstrations “has been devised to help IBC visitors explore different aspects of the delivery and consumption of content over the internet. In response to growing demand, this year the programme extends over two show-floor stages in Hall 5”.
Meanwhile, the monthly Content Everywhere newsletter tracks companies in the OTT sector throughout the year, offering insights into latest trends and developments. This month’s issue provides an overview of what Content Everywhere companies hope and expect to see at IBC as they roam the show floors, attend conferences and meet their peers.
Rick Young, SVP, head of global products at LTN (stand 5.A76), reflects the feelings of many when he says the company is looking forward to reconnecting with industry partners and friends.
“We expect to see some of the year’s dominating trends continue to be at the heart of the agenda in Amsterdam. The problem sets are getting larger with media companies turning away from one-off point products that must be integrated and supported across vendors to more holistic scalable solutions that solve complex problems”, Young says.
Haymi Behar, CMO and CDO at SPI International (5.B87), adds that he is looking forward to “meeting with industry leaders, gathering their insights and being a part of the discourse on how media is evolving towards a more interactive, sustainable, and data-driven era”.
AI in focus
Among the leading industry trends, many exhibitors expect to see a strong focus on technologies including artificial intelligence this year.
Indeed, Tom Dvorak, co-founder and CCO of XroadMedia (5.H62), points out that the industry “has not escaped AI, and IBC will be no different with the massive uptake and investment within all aspects of media and entertainment. We’re particularly looking forward to discovering how services are utilising AI for advertising, personalisation and content discovery”.
Mathieu Planche, CEO at Witbe (5.D76), also notes that AI “and its many possible applications are the biggest topics in tech right now. At IBC2023, we might see a glance forward at the future of the technology – how it can automate cumbersome processes, streamline delivery pathways, and rewrite the rules of the industry.”
According to Behar, “the trajectory of broadcasting is increasingly shaped by the fusion of innovative technologies and immersive experiences such as AI, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). As content providers, we must continually explore ways to integrate these transformative technologies into our services, aligning with the ever-changing expectations of our viewers. IBC is a great platform to discover these innovations, see them in action and network with forward-thinking industry professionals from around the world”.
LTN’s Young notes that technology and managed services “in the form of the right set of production personnel will drive methodologies to leverage automation, data and AI to drive scale, especially with live programming”.
Meanwhile, Ajey Anand, CEO of Norigin Media (5.H59), says that as streaming providers such as Netflix introduce advertisement-funded models, “the need for AI-powered tools to monitor and monetise ad viewing will increase. Connected TVs, being central to this movement, presents an important challenge: the personalisation of ads on fragmented devices. Understanding consumer behaviour on CTV devices where Samsung, Roku, Google, and Apple will all play large roles, will rely on tools that leverage AI algorithms to collect, analyse, and interpret vast amounts of data, enabling advertisers to gain deeper insights.”
Paul Pastor, chief business officer and co-founder at Quickplay (5.H61), also remarks that “we’ll hear plenty about Generative AI. We suspect that Quickplay’s work with a major technology provider will be one of many examples at IBC. Our goal is to bring targeted Generative AI solutions to market faster, speed development of customised features and capabilities, and optimise consumer engagement and monetisation via better A/B testing. It will be intriguing to see what other use cases are proposed.”
Pieter Steins Bisschop, head of business development at Media Distillery (5.G10), is “excited about the upcoming IBC discussions focused on Generative AI and its potential to drive growth and revenues in the TV industry. Capitalising on AI’s capabilities could greatly benefit TV operators, broadcasters, and D2C platforms, enhancing cost efficiency and opening up new business opportunities.”
In addition, Marty Roberts, SVP of product strategy and marketing at Brightcove (5.B90), says he expects to see “many generative AI demos, although the hype cycle is in full swing. Time will tell which demos translate into features and products with true productivity enhancements”.
Tobias Fröhlich, chief product officer and founder at TeraVolt (5.F45), is another who expects to see a focus on AI solutions and strategies for the media industry. “For the best content in broadcast and OTT, AI will find many areas benefiting the industry. We strive to learn about the visions and the solutions where AI is ready to support the industry in providing efficiently what content subscribers, viewers, and users demand,” he says.
There are a number of controversial aspects surrounding AI, however, as Marc Baillavoine, chief technology officer, video networks, at Synamedia (1.BS21, 1BS22) points out.
“When used wisely, AI is a force for good, not just for improving operational efficiencies, such as bitrate reduction and quality optimisation at the codec level, but also for bringing new experiences and ways to consume content, including personalised TV and content generation. But AI also makes it easier for pirates to syphon off revenue from content owners. This is why cyber-based counter piracy technologies will be more critical than ever to keep content and services secure,” Baillavoine says.
Hanns Schempp, head of marketing, TV platform, at Zattoo (5.F81), also remarks that few years have brought up such diverse expectations around TV and media markets as 2023. “Leading projections on FAST and DAS technology impact were followed by what will be recorded by history as the time in which both operable AI was born and the imperatives of climate change tangibly understood for the first time”, he says.
Finding the money
As ever, monetisation of streaming content remains a key focus for the event. According to Baillavoine. more content is being watched online than via traditional systems, “but the financial model of streaming is still to be invented”.
The good news, he adds, is that streaming “offers many monetisation possibilities, especially around ad targeting and content personalisation, and we’ll see an increased appetite for turning these new techniques into more revenue. And we’ll also see solutions that improve operational efficiency and cut costs take centre stage – whether that’s managing subscribers’ broadband devices or using AI to orchestrate CDN traffic.”
Michael Lantz, CEO of Accedo (5.F40), points out that the industry is currently operating in an extremely “budget-conscious ecosystem”, with inflation and the general cost of living affecting disposable income.
“With many video services struggling with growth in the current environment, profitability will be a more important focus. In that regard, it will be more important to justify the business case for all investments, either with improved revenues or reduced costs. We believe that video service providers will increasingly look at their total cost of ownership of the video service and will look for the most efficient way to deliver a certain function or even a complete service,” he says.
Roberts from Brightcove notes that while enhancing monetisation is “always topical, this year’s IBC may focus on the total cost of ownership. Profitability is back in fashion with media and entertainment companies evaluating their strategy: build everything, integrate the best-of-breed components, or outsource to a full-stack streaming platform.”
Schempp also calls for a “sober and experienced, teamworking view on mid-term business growth opportunities and challenges alike — well beyond technology or feature hype. Zattoo has high hopes that this year’s discussions, panels, and keynotes at IBC will tune in to this — from our point of view strong — shift in perspective. While this may be triggered by an upsurge of inflation it also underlines that our industry needs a much better understanding of how to tackle more than a few boilerplate efficiency challenges of network services.”
Lantz adds that he expects to see a continued focus on “hybrid monetisation”, noting that most video services “will at some point have multiple business models to capture different parts of the market with an ad-free experience being reserved only for the most premium subscribers. This adds complexity to the video service, with additional challenges in securing an attractive user experience.”
Indeed, Dvorak says models including free-ad supported TV or FAST “dominated the show last year, and the next natural progression is to make it more relevant for each and every user by improving the user experience, especially around personalisation and content discovery. Even more so as the popularity increased even more in the last 12 months as users are seeking out cheaper TV options. There are many challenges and opportunities around this, given the nature of the laid-back viewing and reach for advertisers.”
Eric Black, CTO and general manager of media at Edgio (5.F18), notes that “creating new efficiencies in media technology, without sacrificing quality of delivery or monetisation, will be a big topic. FAST will continue to dominate conversations because CTV revenue forecasts continue to trend upwards.”
Gatis Gailis, CEO of Veset (5.B10), comments that as more broadcasters move towards ad-funded models for some or all of their monetisation strategies, “there is a massive opportunity for vendors to deliver innovative solutions that will drive that shift. I think IBC will be full of ad tech innovations that will make it easier than ever for broadcasters to maximise this opportunity”.
Planche from Witbe says streaming video “is in a moment where viewers seem happy to watch ads if it means paying less for subscription services. FAST channels are taking off in Europe, AVOD services like Freevee are nominated for Emmys, and top streamers such as Netflix and Max are offering cheaper, ad-supported subscription tiers. At IBC2023, we predict a spotlight on dynamic ad insertion – how to best operate it, monitor it, and secure ad revenue from it.”
Media Distillery’s Bisschop says he’s looking forward to seeing what there is to offer on monetisation strategies, noting that TV operators “are actively seeking new revenue sources, with the rise of FAST channels and premium ad-free replay packages”.
Meanwhile, Tet Media Services (5.F83) is one of the companies that will be demonstrating latest FAST developments in at the Content Everywhere hub in Hall 5. “Our latest innovation is the dynamic FAST channel feature of the Videosher platform. This concept reshapes linear TV channels, personalising the viewing journey for every individual,” the company says.
Randall Bapst, CEO of AiBUY (5.A59), also highlights his company’s work on content interactivity, which he says allows viewers to purchase products without interrupting their viewing experience and creates an additional revenue stream for consumer brands, streaming platforms, and influencers.
This can give “the viewer the ability to actually purchase something while watching a streaming video and never leaving. It can also be used in online publications, and it’s multifaceted, so it’s something really unique to the marketplace right now,” he says.
It would be remiss not to mention the opportunities presenting by live sports streaming, of course. As LTN’s Young explains, “we expect to see a focus on live sports and programming to differentiate in a crowded, evolving market. The live sports licensing market shows no signs of slowing down thanks to greater opportunities to put the right version of matches in the hands of consumers across the globe.”
Bisschop adds that sports content “remains a major driver for linear content consumption. With content rights of sports becoming more and more expensive I’m curious to see how more value can be delivered to the viewer by personalising the viewing experience”.
Edgio’s Black also expects there to be “a lot of talk about the increasingly competitive sports rights market. There’s a lot of experimentation on that front, with the big tech companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google continuing to invest”.
Venugopal Iyengar, COO, digital, at Planetcast International (5.H78), remarks that his company has gained a good understanding “of the challenges of live sports content, as well as the opportunities to innovate through AI-assisted highlight delivery and near-real-time ad insertion” through its work on delivering live cricket for all the major Indian Premier League (IPL) rightsholders.
“We’re looking forward to building on our success in distributing IPL on both linear TV and digital to play a role in live sports distribution globally … Hopefully, we’ll meet customers at IBC that need the “bells and whistles” we developed for coverage of IPL,” he says.
Roberts from Brightcove points to the technologies that will help deliver better sports content. “With HEVC (high-efficiency video coding) finally supported by Google Chrome, we expect to see increasing adoption of ‘beyond HD’ formats, including full ultraHD+HDR and 1440p and 4K SDR content. For an audience with a never-ceasing demand for better quality, this will present as the preservation of film grain, better details in sports, and less tolerance to buffering and stalls,” he says.
Cloud, the climate, and more besides
Cloud and climate change remain important trends, with Lantz from Accedo highlighting sustainability as a nascent trending industry.
“Between the legislation in Europe which will force our regional customers to report on their impact and the pressure from the workforce on strong transformative commitments, the media industry is now consistently making this topic part of the main discussion points. In reality, only a few of our customers have questioned/defined how their own service should evolve to become sustainable,” he says.
Tom Dunning, CEO of Ad Signal (5.H36), notes that “80% of digital storage and network traffic is video, equating to 1.85% of the world’s carbon emissions. Although there is an increased commitment to tackling the climate change crisis, efforts are often hampered by costs, especially amid an economic downturn. However, as the world turns to streaming content, the demand for content has never been higher.”
Dunning says that among the trends his company identified to fill this demand is a desire to capitalise on existing intellectual property, or IP. “The recent Netflix series, Wednesday, is an excellent example. It re-ignited people’s curiosity about the Addams family IP, causing fans to seek out the wide variety of previous Addams family media,” he adds.
However, he warns that monetising existing IP is not always straightforward. “Many archives contain significant duplicate content, often in different formats, resolutions, and alternative cuts. Archival media can also include footage unsuitable for modern sensibilities that needs to be scrutinised before use,” he says.
Dunning concludes: “De-duplicating, extracting meaning and context and making content discoverable is essential. However, it can be incredibly costly financially and environmentally, limiting the ability to monetise archives. Platforms that can solve these complex issues while offering cost and climate savings will be critical to making the best use of existing IP.”
Meanwhile, Veset’s Gailis says cloud will be everywhere once again. “We have seen a massive transition to the cloud, initially driven by the pandemic. However, now that broadcasters have benefited from the flexibility, scalability, and cost-efficiency cloud delivers, there is more pressure than ever before for every part of the workflow to become cloud-based. I think we will see cloud or hybrid-cloud solutions from virtually every vendor at the show,” he says.
Synamedia’s Baillavoine also notes that the “SaaS transition, from just-in-time video processing and IP distribution, to watermarking and advertising, is finally happening and accelerating after years of false starts, allowing content owners and operators to focus on their core values and areas of expertise rather than on operating a video system.”
Quickplay’s Pastor concludes that there’s plenty to see at IBC, “but the most important takeaway is this: Whether it’s the impact of Generative AI, production or distribution media supply chains, or execution on new business models, what really matters is performance of underlying architectures”.
He adds: “The media business is moving at lightning speed and needs flexible, agile, and scalable platforms to quickly address new technologies and opportunities. At IBC we think the industry will look for five key components that are foundational to customers’ success: open architectures; modular workflows; end-to-end orchestration; cloud-native design; and single-tenant deployment.”
Finally, Pastor says, “we shouldn’t overlook media supply chains. They’re often under the radar but are absolutely critical to OTT success. We’ll look for solutions like our Media Orchestrator that leverage automation instead of manual processes for improved ingest, adherence to specifications, and distribution”.
The last comment goes to Accedo’s Lantz, who suggests there will be more talk about industry consolidation this year.
“IBC is a showcase of the diversity of the technology ecosystem for video services. At the same time, there are few large technology suppliers in the industry which is quite fragmented, both geographically and technologically. Over the past 12-24 months we have seen the start of an industry consolidation and we believe that we’ll see a continued consolidation with multiple announcements at or around the IBC time frame,” he sa