TVU Networks is trying to build support across the vendor, service provider and content owner ecosystem for a concept the company calls Media 4.0, which effectively industrialises the ultra-personalisation of content, in real-time, so that everyone can have their own version of a news show or magazine programme that reflects their personal interests. The vision relies on workflow transformations that are going to happen anyway, and technologies that largely exist, some of them supplied by the U.S. vendor.
Paul Shen, CEO at TVU Networks, has provided an outline of how television production and viewing could be revolutionised, and it inherently assumes more unicasting and less broadcasting. Where today a news broadcast covering the Geneva Motor Show typically runs a two-minute segment that introduces the event and the headline news from it, and focuses on unusual or important launches, this shared experience is replaced with an individual one in ‘Media 4.0’.
In future, a television system would understand that in a particular home, there is a family of five and the father is interested in sports cars. This is known from consumer profiling. The two-minute news segment now starts with an introduction and key news and is followed by a focus on a new people carrier and then some new sports models. The TV production system chooses from a selection of video assets and stitches them together in real-time to create a bespoke video stream. This concept could be applied to entire shows.
Media 4.0 builds on existing working practices but harnesses all the content that is being produced (like from an event) rather than throwing most of it away. Thus, if you have multiple reporters at the Geneva Motor Show, each filing video stories that could be chosen for the evening news, you already have the content to serve wide-ranging interests in a more tailored fashion. Broadcasters may already be handling 17 live feeds from a major event, often to create one live stream out, Shen observes.
Once the interests of the viewing population have been profiled, it may turn out that you only need ten versions of a show to meet the individual tastes of everyone, or it could require hundreds of versions, each with a unique selection of content stitched together. Thus, a key part of TVU Networks’ Media 4.0 vision is that large-scale personalisation can be accommodated in a rationalised workflow that does not duplicate effort or raise costs. Shen calls it “mass production for an audience of one”.
A selection of technologies are needed to make ‘Media 4.0’ a reality, not least the ability to cope with lots of encoding and transcoding when required. With software-based video processing and on-demand cloud scaling, where you spin-up instances and spin them down again, this box can be easily ticked.
Media asset and metadata management have to be upgraded (more on that below). And somebody has to link the consumer profiles that reveal our viewing interests to the production system, and do so in real-time for live viewing.
This last part is not as daunting as it sounds. Digital video advertising often relies on programmatic software that, within milliseconds, has to work out who a video is being served to, what kind of household it is (based on consumer profiling), and then make decisions about which advertisement to show them and from which advertiser (based on a whole range of other parameters like who is paying what, how near you are to fulfilling their ‘hit’ quota of ads delivered for the week or month, etc.).
Matching up a household profile against the content that would interest its members appears less complicated. The big data and decisioning technologies will take care of this, if there is a market for Media 4.0. TVU Networks says it is currently trialling the way that profiles are matched to content selections.
TVU Networks has a heritage in broadcasting and streaming contribution, production and management, with 2,500 customers worldwide. Its TVU MediaMind provides the asset management upgrade that could underpin the move to ultra-personalisation. This brings content into one place where it is indexed, based on its metadata, so it can be easily searched in real-time. Content can be identified down to frame level.
The result is a single, centralised search engine, covering recorded (including archive) and live content destined for any platform. Paul Shen refers to a ‘media kitchen’ where all the raw content ingredients are available to the broadcast or digital teams. This asset management system makes it possible to then start stitching content together if you want to create personal programme streams.
Shen says media companies can create a story-centric workflow rather than a programme-centric one, thanks to MediaMind, and his company’s work in other areas could contribute to the Media 4.0 roadmap. At NAB Show in April, the vendor introduced TVU Contribution Automation Solution, which enables broadcasters to plan the entire content acquisition process at the story creation stage, for example.
All assignments are pushed to field devices (e.g. routers, low-latency transmitters, receivers, transceivers) and the personnel involved. Tasks needed for the plan are executed automatically. Metadata, such as story slug, and other information is automatically captured and associated with the corresponding content without human involvement. The contribution of content feeds becomes easier, making bespoke programming easier.
“A television station is a manufacturer of content,” Shen declares. “If broadcasters can create more content that is more efficiently targeted towards audience segments, they will see revenue grow.”
TVU Networks has outlined an interesting roadmap towards automated, truly personalised TV production. The idea of stitching assets together into a stream of bespoke content has been presented before, but usually by UI/UX software specialists when predicting a new role for platform owners as the people that pull on-demand assets into what becomes a ‘fake’ linear channel.
Whether broadcasters would allow their VOD content to be used in these pseudo linear channels, or have the power to stop it, remains to be seen. The TVU Networks concept is aimed at the content owners themselves, and is about programme creation, so would have no legal or business relationship hurdles.
One of the main barriers, beyond completing the technology roadmap and integrating with third-party solutions (like linking consumer profiles to content choices) is the extent to which viewers will want ‘targeted’ news programmes and content. Shen is convinced they will – especially younger viewers, some of whom need to see immediate relevance in order to keep watching.