I still remember Ian Johnson coming to see me at the end of a presentation I made on behalf of France Telecom ten years ago in Paris at the now defunct TVODSL show. Ian was talking to all and sundry, market testing his concept of a show dedicated to IPTV and wanted to know what I thought. Would I speak at the inaugural event? I told him that he was too late for a show on just IPTV, after all at France Telecom weâ€™d just launched IPTV in 2003 so why would be bother coming to a show now in 2004, let alone 2005? I remind myself of that nonsense I spouted, every time I try to predict anything.
Thankfully Ian ignored my advice and TV Connect started just under a decade ago under the name IPTV World Forum. And yes I was in their early speaker line-up.
At the time of the inaugural event, the bubble had burst several years earlier and the industry was looking for the next big thing. We were lucky to have missed the big â€˜convergenceâ€™ hype that popped into the same nothingness as the bubble did. I believe it was coming round then for a second round after itâ€™s first passage in the 90s. Anyone remember that the 2001 NAB had been officially called the convergence NAB?
In the first couple of editions of IPTV World Forum or IPTVWF as it was know then, the only buzzword we needed was in the name of the conference itself i.e. â€˜IPTVâ€™. A few pioneering projects in Kingston, Paris or Canada were actually deploying (well actually more often they were trying to deploy) IPTV and the rare other operators at the show were looking for free consulting on how to do it right.
Those first few years created a sense that this conference was more of an industry get-together than a place for doing deals. Last year like many times in the past, I introduced an operator to a vendor on the show floor. However this time, one year later the two are committed to a large-scale deployment. It took a decade, but the show is transformed at last with a sense of urgency and real business happening.
But letâ€™s go back to the buzzwords for a minute; after IPTV, we moved straight into the â€˜hybridâ€™ hype about 5 years ago. Variations of the â€˜OTTâ€™ expression took over as a kind of buzz for the last two iterations before this yearâ€™s show. I didnâ€™t get the sense of a single buzzword this year. Several have been around for a while and are still news worthy like HEVC, Android, Apps, DASH and of course OTT. Maybe thatâ€™s the sign of maturity and the real business now taking place.
Verimatrix breakfast briefing
For the last two years, Iâ€™ve been kicking TV Connect off with free food. Foreseeably the room was full again, so like last year I had to squeeze into a place at the back.
Although they all had merit on their own, I didnâ€™t understand how the four separate presentations were connected to the â€œoperator as an appâ€ theme of the mini-event, and I felt the 10-minute format was tough on speakers.
Philippe Brodeur from Irelandâ€™s Aertv led me to my most RTed tweet of the show when he pointed out that â€œItâ€™s not about the second screen, but about the right screen at the right timeâ€. Iâ€™d absent-mindedly tweeted that as he said it, thinking it was just another of those easy formulae, but clearly there was more wisdom there than first appears. AerTV is the online TV brand for the Irish ISP Magnet Networks. As the main TV-guy on the panel, Philippe went on to reassure us that as far as advertising â€“ and therefore money â€“ is concerned, linear live TV still reaches way beyond anything on-demand can attain. He flashed some impressive graphics where Netflix didnâ€™t even register â€“ that must have felt good for any TV execs in the room.
Samsungâ€™s Vassilis Seferidis then took the stage showing demos that looked fancier than what Iâ€™ve seen before from the SmartHub, despite approximate English. Maybe Iâ€™m too demanding, as IBC was only six months ago after all, but I was disappointed to hear exactly the same story as then.
Dolbyâ€™s Craig Knudsen made some interesting points about the power of sound and how it was a primal visceral sort of thing. The sum of audio and visual stimuli is greater than the parts i.e. 1+1=3. In recent research that Dolby published, about 70% of mobile device owners care about audio when making decisions, at the same time about 50% are unhappy with the audio of their current devices. I was enjoying the presentation and getting hooked until he spoiled his presentation with a massive 5-minute ad in front of a captive audience.
Vubiquity is the strange new name of Avail TVN that bought the On Demand Group from SeaChange about a year ago. That acquisition prompted some comments on the fact that we now have only one Goliath content aggregation company left with a myriad of smaller Davids like Grey Juice Lab, 3 Vision or Hi-View Media. Tony Kelly who used to run On Demand group and is now EVP for Corporate Strategic Relations made an impassioned presentation on the growth of on-demand homes from 442m currently to 741m in 2018. This contradicted the AerTV presentation, but then whoâ€™s counting? I would have liked to know how operators would be extracting money from all of these OD homes. The market isnâ€™t unified at all and many operators are faced with scalability issues. Could this new opportunity be limited to the big international players? I suppose if Vubiquity is right and weâ€™re talking of almost a billion homes in five years, a measly monthly ARPU of just 2$ still makes a 24 Billion industry (these are my figures, Iâ€™m just using his 741m homes as a basis) and with a pie of that size, even a small slice will get people creative in ways to extract that revenue â€¦
TV Connect show floor
Among various DASH demos, Virginâ€™s OTT service and cloud based services, Harmonic was demonstrating something really new at the show: HEVC on a tablet. The device was a 10â€ Nexus with a dual core A15, 1,7 GHZ processor.
A Wimbledon tennis video (deemed quite hard to encode) was shown with a little jerkiness at a 720p resolution refreshed at 25 FPS. The encoding was VBR requiring 980KBS. Even if the quality wasnâ€™t quite there yet, the exciting point about this for Harmonic and their device-embedded partner Squid Systems is that the tablet can show the video for a continuous 7hrs!
Doubling the refresh rate to 50 PPS rids the video of any jerkiness, but this extra quality comes at a cost. You now need 2200KBS bandwidth and battery life is reduced to a much less impressive 4 hours.
Thierry Fautier pointed out to me that the demo currently used pure CPU decoding. The next step will be to use the GPU so battery life should get to 7 hours even at the better 50 FPS refresh rate.
At NAB in April the main gist of demos from Harmonic is 4K.
You can read Part 2 of Benâ€™s TV Connect blog here.