How Cloud and IP Will
Transform Content Delivery
BY MARK RUSSELL, CTO & HEAD OF STRATEGY, ERICSSON MEDIA SOLUTIONS
The delivery of TV and media content has
changed enormously over the last decade. The stark
rise in IP connectivity and vast increase in online
video consumption have driven a total re-shift in
focus around how the industry should harness this
period of change. With the rise of video-on-demand
(VOD) and subscription-video-on-demand (SVOD)
driving consumer expectations, the need to deliver
content on their terms as has never been higher.
Multiscreen delivery is becoming increasingly
important with the ability to deliver to multiple
handset types and delivery formats, at any time and to any
location. Not only do consumers want content at the time they
want it, on the device of their choice, but they are also demanding
the highest quality possible. In fact, they often want the same
quality of experience they get with current broadcast linear TV
across the whole multiscreen viewing experience, with the option
to regularly switch devices to accommodate their daily lives.
As we move into 2018, the pressures on TV providers, operators,
and broadcasters to transform their existing services to differentiate
and compete in this disrupted market are ever growing.
A QUEST FOR QUALITY
Viewer demand for better quality is far from a new phenomenon.
Even if we consider the last 20 years in isolation, the industry
has witnessed the transition from analog to digital, standard
definition (SD) to high definition (HD) TV, and now to early, limited
deployments of 4K ultra high definition (UHD). Of course, this
evolution did not come about just through updates to TV sets and
cable, satellite, or IPTV distribution systems, but also the content to
and among studios and the distribution of channels after production.
In fact, the updates to these contribution and primary distribution
parts of the chain needed to be in place before commercial TV
services could be launched to the consumer. For higher resolutions—
such as UHDTV and more capable video levels enabled by high
dynamic range (HDR) and wide color gamut ( WCG)—we can now
provide a significantly better viewing experience to the consumer.
Once again, these new formats need to be delivered to and among
studios, often with low latency, and then distributed once produced.
It is clear from the demand for UHD HDR TVs,
desire from the studios, and the consumers’ reactions
to improved viewing experiences that we can expect
UHD and HDR to be widely successful. Ericsson’s
latest ConsumerLab TV and Media research found that
close to a quarter of consumers in the study already
have access to a 4K UHD TV screen and another
third plans to get one. This demand for UHD in turn
creates a requirement to upgrade the contribution
and primary distribution stages of the chain.
DRIVING THE ADOPTION OF HDR
For HDR the consumer proposition is clear—just walk into any TV
store today and see how the high-end TVs all strongly promote HDR—
and so it seems very likely HDR will carry significant commercial
value. Indeed we can see this through the prominence of televisions
with higher picture quality; 4K/UHD TVs are now present in over a
fifth of all homes. It’s already a given that any large screen will be UHD
resolution, now the battleground has moved to HDR. The industry has
no doubt been hindered by complications about formats, but there are
now workable paths for HDR in live content, using HLG or PQ10, along
with the client-selectable format assets for on-demand content.
As a result, it would be reasonable to expect a reasonably quick
adoption of HDR in the contribution and production space, even
before it is available to consumers in volume. Through Ericsson
MediaFirst Encoding Live and our AVP hardware encoding
solutions, we are now harnessing the power of cloud technologies
to deliver the highest possible picture quality. Combined, our
solutions are able to unlock new revenue streams and provide
compression capabilities to ensure efficient delivery of the best
picture quality for all delivery platforms and net works.
As the quality level increases, the choice of UHD HDR or 1080P
HDR is likely to be made on a balance between bandwidth availability
and market competition. Since not all content or channels will
transition instantaneously, we expect a need for conversion bet ween
Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) to HDR and vice-versa. This will be
particularly important as HDR content grows, in order to maximize
the potential of consumer-grade TVs with the latest technologies
built in—a major differentiator in content service delivery.