While virtual reality stole a lot of the innovation thunder at IBC 2016, there were plenty of other things breaking new ground. Here are four of my favorites from the show.
Multi-screen synced video
The delay between simulcast video streams and television channels has been plaguing the industry for years. One area of particular pain is synced bonus content. For example, the Oscar’s app allowed you to see the reaction of the stars in the audience to awards results. However, since the stream was a minute or more behind the television action, the feature was of little value.
Net Insight announced a solution to the problem earlier this year. The company had a booth at the show dedicated to its screen multisync product called Sye. Per Lindgren, head of strategy and business development for Net Insight, demonstrated the functionality, and it was impressive. While a video of a formula 1 motor race played on a television, an iPad showed a stream of one of the race driver’s cabs. Mr. Lindgren added another cab-cam from a different car to the iPad. The two iPad streams were both perfectly in-sync with each other and with the television.
This functionality opens up lots a new entertainment and monetization opportunities for content providers. For example, motor race fans could be willing to pay to watch a race a race from their favorite driver’s viewpoint.
(Old) TiVo gets a brand new look
The acquisition of TiVo by Rovi closed last week, and Rovi decided to keep TiVo’s name. This led to a bit of confusion at the show with two TiVo booths. However, one thing that is not confusing is the new guide interface on display for the TiVo DVR. This is the biggest update in a decade or more, and I suspect TiVo traditionalists are not going to like it.
I, on the other, loved it. Gone are the wordy menus, to be replaced by big, bold images, and easy to navigate sliding rows. The integration between online and TV assets looks to be even slicker than in the previous generation. Show seasons are easier to navigate, and there is liberal use of smart recommendations. I saw a demonstration on the TiVo Bolt, and the interface was fast and responsive.
And in case you’re worried about losing your trusty over-the-air DVR, rest easy. TiVo’s Paul Stathacopoulos reassured me that there are no plans to dump the Bolt anytime soon. And to reinforce that message, the company announced the new TiVo BOLT+. A new black chassis, 3TB hard drive and 6 tuners beef up the existing BOLT’s specs. It will cost $499.99.
A big upgrade for WiFi in the home
My first meeting at IBC turned out to be a good one. I stopped by AirTies booth to talk with CEO Philippe Alcaras and CTO Metin Taskin to hear more about their home WIFI mesh solution. Usually an operator provides just one WIFI router to cover a consumer’s home. This leads to a rapid drop off in throughput and increase in dead spots the further away from that router a consumer gets. Also, client devices frequently don’t make smart decisions about how to connect to the router. They often select the stronger 2.4GHz frequency despite the fact that the connection speed is dramatically lower than 5GHz.
The AirTies solution calls for several small WIFI routers to be placed around the customer’s home to ensure good signal strength everywhere. The routers talk to each other (forming a mesh) and decide for a new client device which frequency (2.4GHz or 5GHz) and router is best for it to connect to for optimal reliability and speed.
This solution is potentially a huge win for operators. 60% of support calls they receive are caused by just two issues: WIFI and in-home hardware problems. The AirTies mesh solution should deliver a more robust, consistent, and faster service throughout the home. This, in turn, should dramatically lower operator call volume.
According to Mr. Alcaras, operators like UK’s Sky are enjoying these benefits today. The company uses AirTies technology as part of SkyQ’s Fluid Viewing functionality.
Clientside video acceleration
I talked with Giraffic’s Ravid Hadar and Inna Zagrebelny. This tiny Israeli company has come up with a way for client apps to improve video performance. When a video app is built to include Giraffic’s technology, Mr. Hadar claims big improvements in video buffering. He says total time spent buffering can be reduced 70 – 80% and buffering occurrences cut 50%.
Certainly if the demo I saw with NFL network on the poor mobile network at the show is to be believed the benefits of the technology are significant. Best of all, it works without changes to anything in the cloud or network.
It’s early days for the company, but this is certainly an approach worth keeping an eye on.
Why it matters
IBC continues to be a dynamic place to come to learn about the digital entertainment industry.
This year saw exiting developments in user interface, home WIFI reliability, multi-screen video syncing and video streaming problem reduction.