As Broadcast Focuses on IP, Video Quality Moves Front and Center
Sometimes you get the opportunity to walk away from the Cisco booth to see – and feel – what’s energizing the industry. From NAB 2017, here are a few of my walkaway takeaways:
1. NAB isn’t just for “traditional broadcasters” anymore. This year, the transition of IP deeper into the video food chain came with a palpable sense of urgency. If foot traffic and meeting volume is any indication, NAB ’17 was one of those inflection points for the record books: We had more visitors and meetings than ever.
Last year, it was all about that important shift of SDI to IP. This year, it was SDI to IP, sure, but it was also about how to find the right technologies and companies to get traditional video to behave more like Internet-styled video (from creation through consumption). NAB President Gordon Smith’s comment, in one of the show dailies — that 90 of the top 100 TV shows originate from traditional broadcasters — is significant.
The only thing that makes broadcasters “traditional” is their transmission mechanism. Broadcast. They’re on the IP bandwagon now, because they want to be, and they have to be, if they want those 90 of 100 top TV shows to reach beyond their “traditional” distribution.
And the future of broadcasting was evident at NAB, as the opportunities are seemingly endless once you have a solid foundation in IP. There was a growing buzz in the South Hall around capabilities like artificial intelligence and machine learning, which will surely kick IP broadcast into overdrive.
2. Storage is making its way back into the video spotlight. Storage always matters, local or cloud — but with the onslaught of big, bulky 4K video, and 360-degree video, and the VR/AR camps, we’re back to dealing with gigantic video files. The need for big storage and handling popped up both in capture and transmission — nearly half of the lower South Hall was populated with companies focused on the processing, encoding, and workflows associated with big files. Storing large files is also a big part of what’s enabling the global shift to cloud-based DVR services.
3. The next big thing is making “traditional broadcast” video act more like its over-the-top (OTT) cousins. A big part of the overall transition to IP is the work of making IP video behave better than “traditional” broadcast techniques — and again, I am focusing on the distribution mechanism here (broadcast), not the industry segment known as broadcasters.
Consider: It used to be that IP video streamed to a handheld, Internet-connected screen was kind of a drag. It took forever to load, or the buffering became tedious, or something else happened that caused viewers to just bail. Adaptive Bit Rate (ABR) techniques, which make devices more aware of the network, and vice versa, are fixing that. That means “right sizing” a stream for the device that will display it, taking into account any network congestion that stream encounters along the way.
Without missing a beat, the South Hall was also buzzing about bringing that elusive video quality to IP streaming. So everything in the video delivery ecosystem is becoming more intelligent in order to transcend “best effort” connections. From our perspective, it’s about making the IP network more content – and content quality – aware. The future of IP Networking for video will be sensing and correcting for video quality, everywhere: from the encoder to the transmission network to the client.
The shift from “traditional” broadcast to IP video is on, and was more real than ever at NAB this year. Whether you were visiting the Cisco booth, or walking the show floor, the shift to IP broadcasting, scalable storage workflows and quality-aware IP streaming was ever-present. It is immensely satisfying to be with Cisco and at the center of these industry transformations that will help our collective customers to reduce time to market, simplify operations, and monetize content across multiple screens. Hats off to the Cisco team who made this year’s NAB our best ever.