From Grass to Glass – how connected screens are changing the broadcast world

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It is impossible to talk about streaming without first understanding a bit about broadcasting.

Broadcasting as a term can be defined as the delivery of content “from one to many”. In the past, this was done with a signal that was sent from a mast to a receiver (or a TV), and it was pretty straightforward. There were standards for both the distribution and the reception of the signal.

Now thanks to the internet, the television multiscreen landscape is unpredictable. The TV industry is continuing to wonder what is next on the horizon, which is not surprising given the successes of content companies like HBO and Netflix.

What we do know is that it is still and will always be about the content.  Viewers are eager for quality content, and they are prepared to pay for it.  Global pay TV revenues reached $245 billion in 2013, and are set to reach a record $281 billion by 2017 according to Statista – so we are in a growth phase, just when everyone started saying “I never watch TV anymore.”

The internet and related technologies have changed the model forever. Now, when we talk about TV , we are talking about delivering content to smartphones, tablets, computers, etc. – indeed, any kind of screen that can receive and display video data. The Football Association of Norway has a term for this kind of football broadcasting: “from grass to glass”.

The distribution method has changed, too. Traditional forms of delivery to TV sets still exist (satellite, cable and digital terrestrial TV), but the internet has effectively thrown open the doors, allowing anyone with a camera to film and publish video content and allow it to be seen by the public.

According to Braxton Jarratt of Clearleap, the change in distribution technology is putting traditional broadcasters at risk.  “TV providers need be able to deliver content to complex device ecosystems that are in a constant state of flux. But the huge range of set-top boxes and operating system versions across fixed and mobile devices, games consoles, smart TV platforms and new hybrids like Roku and Chromecast, create complex compatibility hurdles.”

And that’s just the beginning of the pain.  The main challenge is that digital technology  is not part of a broadcaster’s DNA and therefore they don’t necessarily know how to solve their technology problems.

Braxton Jarratt continues:  “Though difficult, the need for companies to build and retain the skill sets required to maintain a profitable and consistent multiscreen platforms is a necessity. As content providers have no desire to be software developers, they are looking to partner with companies that enable them to concentrate on what it is they do best — providing great content.”

As content spans borders, languages and cultural nuances, new delivery systems need to be technically adept, and flexible enough to manage content flows that meet evolving consumer demands.  Without it consumers will go elsewhere and the history of the internet suggest that more likely than not that “elsewhere” will be illegal sites where content is pirated until such time as the incumbent rights holders wake up and realise that the consumer is in charge.

The number of mobile connected devices exceeded the world’s population in 2013.

By 2017 there will be over 10bn mobile devices.

Mobile video traffic will increase by 1,600% between 2012 and 2017.

Video will account for two-thirds of global mobile traffic in 2017.

Cisco Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update – 2013


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