The pace of change within the broadcast space has been underlined by the release of the eighth edition of Ericsson’s ConsumerLab TV and Media report. Based on quantitative data collected from 13 countries, along with approximately 20,000 online interviews, the report paints a picture of a consumer community that is embracing the future with a growing desire for immersive, on-demand content and greater mobility. For TV service providers, the report highlights the need to maintain a forward-looking strategy that addresses these rapidly changing viewing habits.
The report shows that time spent watching TV and video content has reached an all-time high of 30 hours a week, including active viewing of scheduled linear TV, live and on-demand internet services, downloaded and recorded content, as well as DVD and Blu-ray. Furthermore, close to 60 percent of viewers now prefer on-demand over scheduled linear TV viewing, an increase of around 50 percent since 2010. The rise in consumption is also matching a change in device preference. Mobile and linear may finally reach parity with the report predicting that 50 percent of all viewing will be done on a mobile screen in 2020, half of which will be on a smartphone alone.
TV Viewing and VR on the Incline
While the amount of TV the consumer watches is increasing, so is the appetite for immersive experiences through virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR). The analysis suggests that by 2020, one in three consumers will be VR users. Although around half of consumers are planning to get VR devices, cost is still an issue with the majority suggesting that headsets need to be cheaper and there should be more immersive content available. One of the most interesting insights was that a third of consumers would be more interested in VR if they could get a VR bundle from their TV provider.
For operators, this shift towards immersive viewing marks a major opportunity to create more revenue opportunities with new technology advances. The industry is working together to address this opportunity for more immersive consumer experiences.
In order to accelerate this industry collaboration Ericsson became a founding member of the Virtual Reality Industry Forum (VRIF) earlier this year. The VRIF aims to help avoid the fragmentation of standards and formats, and ultimately push the widespread adoption of VR.
As part of this, Ericsson recently worked with other VRIF members Sky and Tiledmedia on a dmo project to explore the potential of the VR medium to create and test a live immersive consumer viewing experience in the home. Demonstrated at IBC Show 2017 Ericsson used an untethered VR headset where visitors to the stand were able to experience what it’s like to be at the wheel of a Formula 3 car or dugout when their favorite team scores while seamlessly synced with the main TV screen showing a 4k broadcast. To achieve this, the demonstration used Viewport-Adaptive streaming technology which harnesses Ericsson’s HEVC software encoding technology and Tiledmedia’s innovative ClearVR tiled streaming technology to optimize the video quality to bandwidth ratio.
Embracing a Move to IP and Cloud
With the ConsumerLab report signaling a shift to mobility, on-demand and immersive viewing, it also raises the underlying trend that will power the changes taking place within the media landscape – namely IP and the cloud. Both will be crucial to capitalizing on the changes happening now, and innovating for where TV might be heading in the future.
The move to IP has been an ongoing journey for the entire industry over the last decade. Although a lot of legacy technology still remains, the rise of the IP-native over-the-top (OTT) service providers has highlighted the huge benefits of this model. The ability to serve content across a diverse range of IP connected devices, from TVs to screens in cars, has also proven a compelling reason to embrace change and align the business model to the market opportunity.
The capacity to deliver the level of service and expected features within such a highly competitive and rapidly moving market has proven a major challenge for even the most well-resourced operators. From back-end systems able to on-board and manage subscribers all the way through to the apps and platforms able to securely deliver high value UHD content; the concept of the cloud is proving its value as an agile and powerful resource. Cloud moves businesses away from front loaded capacity to a more predictable growth model which, with the uncertainty in the market, is a welcome change for both established players and start-ups trying to break into new markets.