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IBC 2013, impressions of a 4K OTT show

Although OTT has been an IBC topic for a few years, we actually saw a plethora of end-to-end platforms that actually worked, often purely in the cloud. The range of supplier was impressive from Israeli start-ups like Vidmind to multinationals like Siemens or the pioneer Kit digital, now reprendre Piksel. There was also much more talk of real world deployments. Underlying technologies are of course needed to enable OTT and adaptive bit rate (ABR) was omnipresent with most - but not all - stakeholders betting on the convergent MPEG-DASH flavour. OTT ecosystems can still be daunting and as we predicted in last year's white paper written for VO, Broadpeak and Harmonic, multi-vendor pre-integration was a trending theme. This year's IBC was, as expected, all about the forthcoming Ultra HD/4K resolution, which will now be enabled by the new HDMI 2.0 announced at IFA and HEVC. HEVC was shown in a few real world setups as oppose to last year's lab demos, although there wasn’t yet any consumer-grade decoding solutions. Many demos painfully showed that frame-rate is an issue as Thierry Fautier pointed out to me here. The jerky 25 FPS demos clearly made the point that it's going to be at least 50 FPS or higher resolutions just won't take off.  The 8K, Super Hi-Vision demo by NHK in the IBC's future zone blew my mind. With such an immersive experience, I doubt we’ll be wasting any more time with 3D in the living room. Although less prominent, but nevertheless significant, like the tip of an iceberg, the Smart Home continued its slow forward march with for example a demo of Cisco's Snowflake that dimmed the lights during a movie's night scenes. Several vendors like ADB or Nagra were talking about media hubs in the home. Big data was in a lot of discussions and I was pretty amazed by the power of solutions like Genius Digital's analysis of viewing statistics and how they can being immediate gain. Of course I too loved Wyplay's huge blue frog in hall 5, representing their new open source initiative, which needs to be analysed in the light of the US centric RDK project pushed by Comcast. As every year, I spent some time with a company slightly out of my usual focus, this year Livewire Digital showed me how professional newsgathering can meet BYOD. Some things I had expected (described here), but didn't see much of, included HTML5 that wasn't promoted as the mother of all UI technologies as I thought it would be. Also, despite Google’s recent successful Chromecast launch, dongles were not really visible at IBC (I’m told Qualcomm had one on their booth). Finally, it occurs to me tidying up my notes, that the true implication of the BYOD phenomenon hasn’t really been addressed head-on. Of course the show and conference were full of things to say about tablets and smartphones, but nobody seems to be looking at the deep business model transformation underway. When I learnt to do a TV launch business model, barely over a decade ago, the STB represented 70% of the project CAPEX if you hit a million subs. So in the future will a TV rollout cost 30% of what it used to, with the subscriber subsidising the operator for the other 70%? This is about my tenth IBC. In the jury for best booth, to which I was invited again this year (thanks Robin Lince), we realised that as IBC matures in the age of Internet and social media, the show is less about learning what the latest trend or product is or even what people think about them, we usually know all that before even coming. Face to face networking and building relations are the deeper motivation. In follow-up posts I’ll report on the 17 companies I spoke to this year at IBC: Brightcove, Envivio, Axinom, Visiware, Vidmind, Wyplay, Genius Digital, Astec, Axentra, Gravity, Akamai, Rovi, Cisco, Livewire Digital, Tara Systems, Verimatrix and SofAtHome.

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IPTV World Forum Eastern Europe 2009 Roundup

[lang_en]The turn out subjectively seemed to those who I spoke with, to be disappointing, but Informa, the conference organisers, were as always upbeat pointing to the 60+ operators present and the 20+ exhibitors. So I suppose, as the recession isn’t officially over, the glass is over half full.

The conference was setup around cosy tables so it was hard to judge the audience size but there were always between 50 and 100 people present in the conference.

The conference was branded with “quality of experience” and there was some effort to get that into the titles of some of the talks. But what I saw of day one talks didn’t reflect that. I suppose it’s the editorial control issue here. Informa can’t enforce much, the upside of which can be some surprising talks. One speaker I spoke to actually admitted to not really knowing what quality of experience actually is … I picked up a few snippets like from Michal Taborsky that Telefonica O2 has no plans on OTT yet and that HD is delivered in a best effort mode and so not charged for yet in the Czech Republic.

Sebastian Becker, founder, thebrainbehind, stood in as chair on day two. He was surprised by how cautious Russia seems to be with IPTV. It was surmised that torrent users are dominating/ruining this market. Croatians on the other hand seemed bullish on IPTV probably because of the lack of cable there.up

Mihai Crastelnau made a good presentation about the myths of content sourcing that we all say is so veeeeeery difficult, namely because you can’t work with studios. Well that may no longer be the case. It is however still not so easy to get all the details right like the metadata, subtitles, dubbing, encoding, etc.

A learning that OTE shared with the audience was that there should be a significant gap between the price for double play and triple play. Iskon in Croatia uses 25%, which seems to fit the market well.

The Orange IPTV advertising experimentation seems to be still in very early days, like the red button was in 2003. Orca and Dreampark both gave convincing middleware presentations. Finally Sebastian noted how NBC Universal showed their new channel branding strategy is a way to become must-have channels. Their message to platforms is (surprise-surprise) to focus on quality rather than quantity.

Overall, Sebastian Becker thought it was a good show considering the circumstances, although as chair he regretted that the audience didn't ask many questions.

The exhibition was well laid out in such a way that, unlike in London, no booths were stuck in the corner off the beaten track. Informa cleverly served a scrumptious desert in the middle of the exhibition so there was plenty of passage.

I randomly dropped into some booths of companies I didn’t really know.

Gravity is a Hungarian start-up in the recommendation space. They proudly stated at the booth that they were “Founder of the overall best Netflix prize best team”, but I never got to the bottom of that and everyone in this space claims some sort of link. Their demo worked fine, but with a database of 120 movies at the show I was unimpressed. If I get the time I’ll try out their half collaborative filtering half metadata approach on the web with a real database.up

I was more impressed by the DS2 booth. DS2 is a Spanish chip and reference design company for power line communications (PLC) devices. Their chipsets end up in the PLC devices from the likes of D-Link or Netgear. They compete with Intellon (also at the show) and claim a few USP’s like a TR-069 client option for just an extra $1. This could enable an operator to do things like upgrade a device firmware or reboot a customer’s PLC device. As we look towards more and more commitment from operators to manage IPTV services this looks like a really smart move.

DS2 sell a tiny daughter card for $16-20 which will let you integrate PLC into other devices, so it could for example be in the modem-router and STB of the operator straight out of the box.

The big news for folks in the PLC market is ITU-T’s ratification just this month of the G.hn standard that will enable true compatibility between vendors (hmmm sounds familiar, I thought that was already the case, I suppose it can’t be). DS2 say they’ll have new 400 Mbps devices ready and compatible by the end of 2010. Current devices are at 200 Mbps. Remember to halve all published rates between the physical layer advertised and what is achievable at o-an IP level. The dynamic range (i.e. how far you can get two PLC devices to talk to each other) isn’t expected to change though. So if it doesn’t work in your home now, it won’t any time soon.

As Evertz are at most of the IPTV shows and I have no idea what they do, I thought I’d stop by to find out. The first good news is that they come from Canada. They sell - and do correct me if I'm wrong with the technicalities - 3RU racks where you can slot up to 15 cards each of which takes an SDI input and spurns out an MPEG stream ranging from 1 to 20 Mbps. So I deduct that they do encoders. The company website (which feels uncannily like you’re at the Hertz rental car company) did little to help deepen my understanding. I’ll try the literature next time and anyone from Evertz please feel free to contact me for proper write up.

I stopped off at the Open IPTV Forum booth where I had three green t-shirted friendly people all to myself (hmm wonder who pays for that). Starting from 8 founding members in 2007 they boast an impressive 58 paid-up members. They have no pure-play middleware vendors (Ericsson doesn’t count because they supply the whole ecosystem). If they did have, say, Dreampark, it could help to get their specs off the white-boards and into live deployments.up

As I passed the Orca booth, Sefy Ariely, VP Sales & Marketing at Orca Interactive, grabbed my arm and told me he was a bit cheesed off [with me] about the comments I’d made in my last piece about them showing the Compass demo over and over at show after show (Read IBC 2009 report on Middleware). I told Sefy I had been nice because not only was it repetitive, but getting less interesting than it was in the beginning. Sefy, being a seasoned professional, had an answer to every objection. It was first just a concept demo, now it’s a real product. It looks like we just have to accept that real products are less exciting than demos.[/lang_en]
[lang_fr]The turn out subjectively seemed to those who I spoke with, to be disappointing, but Informa, the conference organisers, were as always upbeat pointing to the 60+ operators present and the 20+ exhibitors. So I suppose, as the recession isn’t officially over, the glass is over half full.

The conference was setup around cosy tables so it was hard to judge the audience size but there were always between 50 and 100 people present in the conference.

The conference was branded with “quality of experience” and there was some effort to get that into the titles of some of the talks. But what I saw of day one talks didn’t reflect that. I suppose it’s the editorial control issue here. Informa can’t enforce much, the upside of which can be some surprising talks. One speaker I spoke to actually admitted to not really knowing what quality of experience actually is … I picked up a few snippets like from Michal Taborsky that Telefonica O2 has no plans on OTT yet and that HD is delivered in a best effort mode and so not charged for yet in the Czech Republic.

Sebastian Becker, founder, thebrainbehind, stood in as chair on day two. He was surprised by how cautious Russia seems to be with IPTV. It was surmised that torrent users are dominating/ruining this market. Croatians on the other hand seemed bullish on IPTV probably because of the lack of cable there.haut

Mihai Crastelnau made a good presentation about the myths of content sourcing that we all say is so veeeeeery difficult, namely because you can’t work with studios. Well that may no longer be the case. It is however still not so easy to get all the details right like the metadata, subtitles, dubbing, encoding, etc.

A learning that OTE shared with the audience was that there should be a significant gap between the price for double play and triple play. Iskon in Croatia uses 25%, which seems to fit the market well.

The Orange IPTV advertising experimentation seems to be still in very early days, like the red button was in 2003. Orca and Dreampark both gave convincing middleware presentations. Finally Sebastian noted how NBC Universal showed their new channel branding strategy is a way to become must-have channels. Their message to platforms is (surprise-surprise) to focus on quality rather than quantity.

Overall, Sebastian Becker thought it was a good show considering the circumstances, although as chair he regretted that the audience didn't ask many questions.

The exhibition was well laid out in such a way that, unlike in London, no booths were stuck in the corner off the beaten track. Informa cleverly served a scrumptious desert in the middle of the exhibition so there was plenty of passage.

I randomly dropped into some booths of companies I didn’t really know.

Gravity is a Hungarian start-up in the recommendation space. They proudly stated at the booth that they were “Founder of the overall best Netflix prize best team”, but I never got to the bottom of that and everyone in this space claims some sort of link. Their demo worked fine, but with a database of 120 movies at the show I was unimpressed. If I get the time I’ll try out their half collaborative filtering half metadata approach on the web with a real database.up

I was more impressed by the DS2 booth. DS2 is a Spanish chip and reference design company for power line communications (PLC) devices. Their chipsets end up in the PLC devices from the likes of D-Link or Netgear. They compete with Intellon (also at the show) and claim a few USP’s like a TR-069 client option for just an extra $1. This could enable an operator to do things like upgrade a device firmware or reboot a customer’s PLC device. As we look towards more and more commitment from operators to manage IPTV services this looks like a really smart move.

DS2 sell a tiny daughter card for $16-20 which will let you integrate PLC into other devices, so it could for example be in the modem-router and STB of the operator straight out of the box.

The big news for folks in the PLC market is ITU-T’s ratification just this month of the G.hn standard that will enable true compatibility between vendors (hmmm sounds familiar, I thought that was already the case, I suppose it can’t be). DS2 say they’ll have new 400 Mbps devices ready and compatible by the end of 2010. Current devices are at 200 Mbps. Remember to halve all published rates between the physical layer advertised and what is achievable at o-an IP level. The dynamic range (i.e. how far you can get two PLC devices to talk to each other) isn’t expected to change though. So if it doesn’t work in your home now, it won’t any time soon.

As Evertz are at most of the IPTV shows and I have no idea what they do, I thought I’d stop by to find out. The first good news is that they come from Canada. They sell - and do correct me if I'm wrong with the technicalities - 3RU racks where you can slot up to 15 cards each of which takes an SDI input and spurns out an MPEG stream ranging from 1 to 20 Mbps. So I deduct that they do encoders. The company website (which feels uncannily like you’re at the Hertz rental car company) did little to help deepen my understanding. I’ll try the literature next time and anyone from Evertz please feel free to contact me for proper write up.

I stopped off at the Open IPTV Forum booth where I had three green t-shirted friendly people all to myself (hmm wonder who pays for that). Starting from 8 founding members in 2007 they boast an impressive 58 paid-up members. They have no pure-play middleware vendors (Ericsson doesn’t count because they supply the whole ecosystem). If they did have, say, Dreampark, it could help to get their specs off the white-boards and into live deployments.haut

As I passed the Orca booth, Sefy Ariely, VP Sales & Marketing at Orca Interactive, grabbed my arm and told me he was a bit cheesed off [with me] about the comments I’d made in my last piece about them showing the Compass demo over and over at show after show (Read IBC 2009 report on Middleware). I told Sefy I had been nice because not only was it repetitive, but getting less interesting than it was in the beginning. Sefy, being a seasoned professional, had an answer to every objection. It was first just a concept demo, now it’s a real product. It looks like we just have to accept that real products are less exciting than demos.[/lang_fr]