It’s been a busy year by any metric, and no exaggeration is required to claim that the Media, Broadcast and Technology industries have been among the busiest sectors across the board. Mark Mayne taks a look back through the year’s high points to see what they telegraph for the year ahead.
If ever there has been a year of AI, 2023 has been it, with the technology taking over conversations at almost all levels of the media and tech industry. Interestingly though, where previous years have been all about the promise and the potential (as well as the hype) behind AI, 2023 has seen a much more human response to this brave new world.
AI/SAG-AFTRA and VFX
From the EU’s legislative steps through to the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA strike, the impact of AI has begun to have visible real world effects, a process that is certain to continue for 2024.
Just one of those events - the writers strike - has had a vast impact on the wider industry, delaying productions and cancelling some altogether. The resulting gap in work is still working it’s way through the post-production system, and will be a drag on growth for the coming months too. For example, Sony cut the fiscal year operating profit forecast of its movie unit to 115 billion yen ($762 million) from 120 billion yen, citing the delays.
Read more: Industry Players comment on 2023
“Due to delays in production and constraints in promotion activities, we are seeing negative impact such as a delay in the release of certain motion pictures and a delay in the delivery of television productions,” Sony executives explained on an earnings call. “We have incorporated the impact that can be assumed at the present time into our forecast for the fiscal year.”
Meanwhile, Disney is set to spend $25bn on content in 2024, $2bn less than 2023 and far less than the $33bn it spent in 2022. A move that is in line with Disney CEO Bob Iger’s plans to generate less new content and streamline programming.
Another data point is the UK Government’s support for the VFX industry through a tax break - yet another measurable impact of an AI-generated cultural and technical earthquake that will continue to reverberate throughout 2024 and beyond.
A final note - recent research has showed that Generative AI adoption is accelerating at double the rate that smartphones or tablet computers achieved. Generative AI adoption will climb to 77.8 million users in the two years following the November 2022 release of ChatGPT, according to Insider Intelligence.
VR and the Metaverse - Down But Not Out
Although AI may have stolen the lion’s share of headlines this year, the many-worlds of alternate reality continue to evolve, as Marco Tempest, Director’s Fellow Alumni, MIT Media Lab, Creative Technologist for NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Founder of MagicLab.nyc, revealed in an impressive IBC2023 keynote.
Using a compact demonstration device, which he has dubbed “the metaverse in a carry-on”, Tempest carried out a live demo that combined generative AI, mixed reality, storytelling, gestural sensing and swarm robotics to provide a glimpse into the future of augmented experiences.
“The metaverse is already taking shape at a corporate level, and companies are now seeking virtual space in which to share knowledge, experiences and even work,” he told the audience.
“I think it’s the first time ever that we’ve been confronted with a technological wave that doesn’t require technologists to take advantage of. That accessibility for non-technical people will change our landscape quite a bit.”
While there are as many versions of the metaverse as you care to count, 2023 certainly saw some concrete developments both on the positive and negative sides for the space. Critics point to a lack of uptake, with Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta seeing its virtual and augmented reality branch Reality Labs lose a bewildering $21 billion since 2022. On the other hand, Apple’s highly-anticipated Vision Pro Augmented Reality Headset was announced mid-2023, due to go on sale early 2024.
“I believe augmented reality is a profound technology. Blending digital content with the real world will unlock experiences we’ve never seen,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the launch - surely one to keep an eye on in 2024.
Its Showtime: Visitor Numbers on the Rise
After the lean years of the pandemic, visitor numbers have bounced back in good news for the industry. In 2023, the bellwether mid-year NAB show - in it’s centennial year - saw a 20% uplift in visitor numbers. Later in the year, IBC2023 also reported a significant uplift, with 43,065 attendees from 170 countries visiting the RAI Amsterdam on 15th-18th September. With three core pillars running through the whole content programme at IBC2023 – Transformative Tech, Shifting Business Models and People & Purpose – IBC delivered its most comprehensive and compelling content agenda to date.
An increased line-up of 325+ speakers across an expanded number of theatre halls took to the stage to champion new technologies, future business models, and creative innovations that broaden the horizons of media and entertainment.
Topics such as cloud, AI, 5G, VR/AR/XR, metaverse, gaming and edge computing were front and centre throughout the show floor theatres and exhibition halls, including proof-of-concept demonstrations delivered by the IBC Accelerator Media Innovation Programme projects, championing cross-industry collaboration and pioneering new use cases.
IBC2024 will run from Friday 13th – Monday 16th September - register for IBC2024 today!
Cloud and FAST Major Industry Drivers
After many years of varied adoption, cloud has now become an accepted staple of the media and broadcast industry, a fact that has become abundantly clear throughout 2023, with both IBC2023 and NAB shows highlighting the change in emphasis. Cloud economics figured large at NAB earlier in the year, while the increasing strategic value of moving on-premises workloads to the Cloud was a key theme at IBC2023.
As Jonathan Solomon, AWS Principal Partner Solutions Architect, Media & Entertainment, commented as part of an IBC webinar panel: “Our media buyers have [to date] really just been lifting and shifting, if you will, which is taking existing application software then running it in the cloud. Now there’s more interest in what’s running on the cloud, how can we make it more efficient and what are the opportunities, so transformative would be a really good word to use.”
FAST was certainly a major buzzword in 2022, and adoption has continued apace through 2023. US market bellwether, the Comscore annual State of Streaming report (now in it’s 7th edition) found that there had been growth across the board, but crucially 75% of new hours were captured by providers beyond the top six apps - Netflix, YouTube, Prime Video, Hulu, HBO Max/MAX and Disney+ - as FAST and Targeted Programming consumption accelerates.
“While the top US streaming services are keeping up with the demand for subscriptions, new growth can be observed in FAST streaming platforms like Roku, Pluto and Tubi which are increasingly consolidating their position in the household mix,” said James Muldrow, Vice President, Product Management, Comscore. “At the same time, cable/satellite subscribers remain some of the most engaged users in the streaming landscape. With three cable/satellite providers in the Top 10 ranking of video services based on hours watched per household, these findings highlight the success of these providers in offering advertisers consistently engaged streaming audiences.”
The report also showed a 21% increase in the number of CTV hours per household watched, rising almost 2bn year-over-year in 2023, up from 9.6bn to 11.5bn (May ‘22-May ‘23) with ad supported services capturing the bulk of new viewing.
Another key streaming moment in 2023 was the release by Netflix of its first viewer report, What We Watched: A Netflix Engagement Report, which covers the first six months of 2023. The streaming giant also comitted to releasing the report bi-anually, a welcome step yet towards data transparency in the streaming industry.
Sustainability with Purpose and the Value of People
A central theme throughout 2023 has been that of sustainability. From World Environment Day, where the industry paused to acknowlege Albert Mission Zero, to the Responsible Media Forum’s work on DIMPACT, there has been much progress this year, some of it documented in detail in The albert Report.
The report highlighted the work in one particular studio, Bottle Yard Studios in Bristol, UK, which in 2022 opened TBY2, a state-of-the-art facility powered by 2,300 1MWp PV solar panels.
Katherine Nash, The Bottle Yard’s Business Operations Manager told IBC365 why they are a great supporter of the standard: ”The Bottle Yard was part of BAFTA Albert and Arup’s working group that helped develop it and I’m proud to say that TBY2 went on to become one of the first studios to be awarded it earlier this year. It can only be a good thing for the sector if it helps studios measure and reduce their environmental impact whilst also becoming part of a community of facilities overcoming challenges to make real change to their carbon footprints. It prompts the sustainability outlook if you are starting on a project from scratch, and ultimately creates an action plan framework to work from, focussing on the key areas of Climate, Circularity, Nature, People, Management and Data.”
A final note for 2023 has to be around the value of people, not only from the perspective of tackling the ongoing skills crisis in media, technology and broadcast, but also through the lens of increasing inclusivity and diversity. On the latter, one memorable moment was IBC’s first ever LGBTQ+ session, which saw a panel come together to discuss how to bridge the diversity gap in tech and media. The session was part of the IBC2023 Changemakers programme, which also hosted a seven-episode podcast series with Nadira Tudor leading interviews with key industry figures about critical cultural developments in technology and M&E.
Excitingly, while these themes played a key role in 2023 it is absolutely certain that they will all feature heavily in 2024, itself something to look forward to at the end of another busy year - Happy 2024!