Next TV: Evolving Digital Landscape a Game of 'Whac-A-Mole'

Delivering the ideal content experience to consumers amidst an ever expanding array of viewing platforms is a daily challenge, said the panelists on the panel “Technology Enhancing the Quality of the VOD, OTT and IPTV Viewer Experience” at the Next TV Summit on Wednesday.

There are challenges related to bandwidth, to credentialing, to digital rights management, to metadata and others. Today’s consumer swims in a “sea of apps,” said Michael Bishara, senior VP, product, and general manager of TV Everywhere, Synacor, and it’s the technology outfits’ jobs to help him or her stay afloat. “We’re making the consumer work really hard to get access to something that’s supposed to be fun,” he said.

Mike Green, senior director, digital media solutions, Brightcove, likened the challenge of matching up content technology to new platforms, devices and operating systems to “playing a game of Whac-A-Mole”—as soon as one problem is solved, a new conundrum pops up.

While all the panelists are expertly versed in technology, they said the aim was to essentially take technology’s presence out of the consumer equation and make the user experience “seamless,” as Tim MacGregor, senior director, product strategy and management at Clearleap put it.

Kerry Wheeles, CTO, Imagine Communications (Harris Broadcasting split into Imagine and GatesAir March 17), said he works towards an image of a world in which the technology better intuits the user. “Imagine a time when technology understands you,” he said. (With six females under the age of 20 in his household, Wheeles suggested he hopes the day arrives soon.)

Prompted by moderator Jeff Baumgartner, technology editor at Multichannel News, Wheeles offered up a clear and concise explanation of adaptive bitrate, where the content automatically adjusts to the network that’s available for more efficient delivery. Compared to the old days of endlessly buffering video, Rick Louder, VP of business development at Sorenson Media, called it “a major breakthrough in the industry.” (Louder filled in for CEO Marcus Liassides, who was unable to attend the session due to injury.)

Conversation shifted to 4K television, and the panelists mostly agreed that widespread adoption was some time away, due in part to the massive bandwidth currently required to distribute 4K video. “When you quadruple the bandwidth,” said Louder, “who’s going to pay for the bandwidth?”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.