With the year 2018 holding much promise in terms of mega sporting events such as the Football World Cup, Winter Olympics, and our very own IPL which gets bigger each year, and elections and entertainment, broadcasters are throwing their weight behind new and emerging technologies to enhance quality and coverage of content production and distribution. Here are a few eye-catching technological trends that may rule the broadcasting, cable, and satellite industry this year.

Migration to IP-based broadcast infrastructure. The emergence of ultra-high definition (UHD) resolutions such as 4K and 8K has necessitated a transformational drive in broadcast infrastructure. The year 2018 is expected to see a pickup in the trend of transition from hardware-based serial digital interface (SDI) infrastructure to software-based IP infrastructure using public or private cloud.  Deployment of an IP-based Ethernet video infrastructure delivers increased signal capacity and enhanced flexibility, allowing faster expansion of broadcast operations. It is also a more cost-effective broadcast solution compared to the legacy format involving SDI switches and cables.

ATSC 3.0 becomes a reality. The recent FCC approval to ATSC 3.0, the new standard governing over-the-air broadcast TV could prove to be a watershed moment for the broadcasting industry and represents a significant technological leap over current ATSC broadcast standards.  Based on an IP backbone, ATSC 3.0 seeks to merge internet content with broadcast television. It utilizes a more modern compression mechanism for supporting high-bandwidth streams, allowing transmission of 4K UHD signals and more SD or HD channels along with interactive programming. For broadcasters, ATSC 3.0 offers a targeted advertising platform based on geography or demographics, while enhancing audience measurement that will allow them to capture actual consumption data without relying on third-party data. The simulcasting capability of ATSC 3.0 will enable broadcasters to convert channels to the new standard while still delivering older gen broadcasting to allow smoother transition. By creating an opportunity of developing synergies across the value chain particularly with OTT service providers, ATSC 3.0 holds significant cost benefits for broadcasters.

HDR primed to take off. HDR which is a software that creates a composite image with a high dynamic range (HDR) based on multiple shots at different exposures taken in close sequence is expected to be one of the key broadcasting technological trends in content production this year with this summer’s FIFA World Cup action in Russia set to be captured by cameras in 4K HDR video quality with immersive sound while some matches will also be broadcast using VR and 360 degree video technologies.

Cellular bonding technology to become more pervasive. Live event producers are increasing reliance on cellular bonding solutions that allow transmission of live streams to the cloud through multiplexed cellular signals when Wi-Fi or Ethernet is not available, thereby replacing the more expensive and logistically cumbersome satellite news gathering (SNG) technologies. Using bonding which combines multiple cellular and wireless networks including 2.5G, 3G, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, and WiMAX generates a reliable and strong video uplink capable of HD video transmission. It is also a more cost-effective technological mechanism for live reporting from any location including remote areas.

PTZ cameras set to make further strides. With their ability to automate, trim OpEx by streamlining camera operations, and generate good video quality, pan-tilt zoom (PTZ) cameras are gaining traction in news broadcasting stations, replacing traditional pedestal-mounted studio cameras. PTZ production cameras offer a compact, self-contained robotic camera solution while they include enhanced image sensors, digital signal processing, and precise control. Some PTZ cameras come with POE+ (power over Ethernet plus) that acts as a single cable solution delivering power, IP control, web control, and preview and content streaming over Cat5e/6 cable.

ENG to give way to smartphone news gathering. Expensive electronic news gathering technology (ENG) which includes camcorders, edit bays and live trucks with inefficient workflows and almost outdated linear news show format is set to make way for high-speed smartphone news gathering, with an IP delivery mechanism used for field-to-station transmissions, replacing microwave and satellite technology.

H.265/HEVC the future of compression technology. Enhancing compression quality is vital for broadcasters in the digital age amidst a plethora of new channels, and the need for simultaneous bandwidth saving and improved image quality for multiplatform content delivery (MPCD) services. H.265 (HEVC) compression technology can cut down the bandwidth needed to produce high-quality images, particularly for 4K/UHD channels.

AoIP gaining acceptance in broadcast production. With its ability to reduce overall costs, improve workflows, trim equipment needs, translating into simplification and reduction of infrastructure, Audio over Internet Protocol (AoIP) is being increasingly used in TV broadcast and production facilities. Given that AoIP environments are easily adaptable to any audio channelization format and can accommodate control-data channels alongside the audio payload, AoIP is a future proof solution. Adoption of IP audio networks offers broadcasters ample flexibility since network capacity can simply be extended by addition of more switches.  For easier AoIP implementation and integration, Livewire+ AES67 has emerged as a feasible means of transmission of low-latency, high-reliability audio over switched Ethernet. It is fully compliant with the AES67-2013 standard for high-performance streaming AoIP interoperability, enabling seamless device connectivity to Livewire + networks for exchanging audio streams, irrespective of device or manufacturer type.

3D IC and 2.5D packaging to gain traction. To meet the needs of next gen information and communication technology systems, packaging technology is also evolving alongside integrated circuit technology (IC) scaling. Furthermore, design and development of packages should satisfy cost, performance, form factor, and reliability. Broadcasters are leveraging advanced packaging solutions such as 3D IC and 2.5D, which offer greater connectivity, enhance chip bandwidth, and lower power consumption, even as they integrate more die content per package.

Flip chip technology on the rise. Broadcasters are tapping flip chip technology for LED and CMOS image sensors (CIS) applications. Flip chip is a critical technology for advanced packaging of microelectronic circuits and other devices, and is utilized for interconnecting semiconductor IC with other ICs, peripheral circuits in an effective manner by solving the heat transfer issue of semiconductor devices, optimizing performance at higher frequency and lowering power consumption.

Packet pricing. Whilst managing large videos, there is an increased risk of congestion over switch ports as demands spike quickly and exhaust the switch buffer. Techniques such as packet pricing that address both switches and the server enable broadcasters to overcome this problem by rate-limiting flows while preventing packet loss in the process.

Broadcasting: Unlocking the Tech Potential

It is 2018 and technology is unleashing a plethora of opportunities for global and local broadcasters. As online video becomes the new future of viewing content driven by the emergence of faster wireless services that have significantly enhanced video streaming quality, the broadcasting industry is being pushed to adopt more sophisticated technologies to drive key advances and efficiencies in every area of video.

With 5G round the corner, super-fast internet speeds can be achieved with ultra- low latency and catapult new delivery technologies such as fixed wireless access (FWA), escalating demand for robust and reliable video content. Moreover, the US regulator’s recent nod to ATSC 3.0, the long-tested next-generation transmission standard that is expected to revolutionize over-the-air (OTA) TV broadcasting marks a watershed moment for the industry. ATSC 3.0 which will enable the marriage of linear and digital delivery, allowing more interactive and personalized opportunities around content, may spur the adoption of higher broadcast resolutions like HDR and 4K with 8K also on the horizon. Surge in smart TV sets with 4K TV set shipments and non-4K, HDR TV set sales booming, will also force broadcasters to deploy high-resolution video offerings more widely.

The advent of sharper and more vibrant digital formats such as UHD resolutions is also prompting broadcasters to redefine and future proof their infrastructure by moving from SDI to IP using cloud. The adoption of a software-defined architecture which offers more scalability and cost advantages has become even more important at a time when broadcasters are being pressed for ever-increasing content demands in the digital age. Existing proprietary SDI routers, coaxial cables, and BNC connectors have been pushed to the brink and are incapable of handling the rapid progress in video and audio quality and new distribution models. A software defined network model which can be configured for managing switches and preparing a network for the desired workflow and video routing generates greater performance and efficiencies for broadcasters. Migration to an IP-based infrastructure can pave the way for large-scale innovation by broadcasters across several areas such as content creation and distribution, multi-platform support, and future video formats. Open networking and commercial off the shelf (COTS) solutions can serve as the cornerstone for innovations in future media and video entertainment.

Broadcasters are also likely to increase their uptake of fiber optics technology for next-generation television signal routing, where increased bandwidth and seamless flow of video throughout a network is quintessential for accommodating HD signals and multicast SD channels. With its ability to deliver digital, high bandwidth and low latency streams, optical fiber cable (OFC) is emerging as a more secure, cost-effective, and faster transmission medium for broadcasters to route video and audio control signals and radio frequency (RF) around their facilities, replacing the traditional copper or coaxial connectivity which suffers from bandwidth constraints and has high attenuation, so thereby is unsuitable for modern day requirement of 4K/UHD transmission.

Immersive video technology comprising virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and 360-degree video technologies could also be a popular theme for broadcasters this year. Gaming, entertainment, and live sporting events including the Football World Cup and the Winter Olympics are expected to headline the VR opportunity for broadcasters as they seek to monetize the immersive video content via advertisements or other means, and deliver enriched consumer experiences. Expect to see a rise in mobile VR apps from broadcasters, emerging as a smarter and wider platform to host and stream immersive video. AR which is a less technically challenging technology and less inhibited by the need of a headset, along with 360-degree video is also gaining traction, creating a new digital video ecosystem that broadcasters can tap for future value creation.

Broadcasters are also moving aggressively toward embracing IP technologies and metadata that are changing the course of content production from the core and are also forming a crucial part of proliferation of personalized video and content discovery. Broadcasters will also look to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) for adding value across the entire video chain from automatic capture of facial recognition data, to content generation for advanced search and monetization. Embracing voice technologies for better and simplified content search is also a trend that may catch up in 2018. Audio over IP (AoIP) is likely to witness strong growth as television broadcasters add more IP equipment. The biggest impact of next generation audio (NGA) is expected to be realized through ear buds and headphones with immersive audio delivering personalized television audio experience.

Merging data within the video with the help of new age technologies is expected to power data-driven content decisions and transform the way content is produced, distributed, and monetized. Successfully tapping these technologies will enable more efficient content production and faster, targeted, and more immersive content delivery to the consumer, tremendously increasing revenue opportunities for broadcasters.