Ben Keen’s NAB 2017 wrap up

The NAB Show, Las Vegas is one of the annual highlights on the pay-TV calendar, with four consecutive days of presentations, seminars and discussions, led by some of the most influential names and brands in the industry. There were over 103,000 attendees and more than 1,800 exhibitors. Throughout all these seminars and industry discussions it became clear that there are several key topics at the forefront. Ben Keen, former Chief Analyst at IHS, talks us through four of the big highlights from NAB 2017.

Expect VR and more!Ben Keen

One of the main themes from NAB has been about the video experience and enhancing the video experience for the consumer. Several companies who are working on the app side of the eco system are improving the OTT video experience as consumers use ever more devices and watch on the go.

Another interesting variation I wasn’t expecting is that two of the companies that I met with have been using so called augmented realities, AR rather than VR to enhance the video experience. Using the Microsoft HoloLens which allows you to see the real world and a real TV screen but then have enhancements that only appear virtually overlaid on that real world. For example, an EPG appears virtually within the space as you are looking at the world that isn’t really there – pretty cool stuff!

Exciting collaboration news, as Charter team up with AMC to co-produce original content.

Charter, one of the leading cable operators in the United States announced an interesting programming deal with AMC Entertainment, which have some of the best hit TV shows around the world including Walking Dead and Mad Men. This deal means that Charter can show new programmes that come out of AMC Entertainment first before any other operator in the States.

This marks the first cable operator from the States to do what some of the big TV operators in Europe have been doing such as the likes of Sky and Liberty who have already been investing in original content. This is a real acceleration of the content arms race that we have seen going on that has really fired up Netflix and Amazon by starting to spend big bucks on original content. This is a next stage in that war.

Netflix has found a way to broadcast content in China.

Netflix finally made a breakthrough in terms of getting sound traction in biggest market in the world which is China. China is known as notoriously difficult market to break into for western companies, Netflix has tried and failed for some time but now they seem to at least have got a deal with the major streaming providers in China. We still have a lot of unanswered questions such as how they are going to get around strict content rules that exist in China that has so far prevented companies like Netflix licensing their content in a big way?

Although there are several big content deals that have happened in China they are not the kind of size of deal that its appears that Netflix has done. Really interesting!

Lessons from the ‘Front Lines’ panel featuring Netflix, Amazon Studios, Warner Bros. and Fox – and what was discussed!

It was an interesting opportunity to hear from the guys who are operating at the front line and making things happen. Lessons from the Front Lines panel, North Hall, Las Vegas Conversion Centre, on stage the Senior Solutions Architect, Callum Hughes from Amazon Studios, their biggest competitor Netflix had Chris Fetner, Director, Global Media Engineering and Partnerships, Warner Bros. had David Sugg, Executive Director, Technical Solutions Architecture and Digital Medial Engineering and Thomas Stilling, Vice President, Global Enterprise Operations from 20th Century Fox.

They were all talking about the cloud, in fact they were all talking about it regardless of whether they worked for Amazon or not, they were talking about Amazon web services as a cloud provider and how the infrastructure in this industry is going in a commodify way. The real wake up moment was from Chris Fetner, Netflix, saying how democratising and equalising the provision of the cloud is because it enables the same capabilities to be offered to all kinds of players in this market.

What is very, very clear is that the studios are happy to unload all the responsibilities for security. Security is paramount important to the studios and protection of content is incredibly important but they are all happy to give that over to someone like Amazon web services as they have a whole dedicated division doing just that. We are seeing a real sea change in the way that these companies are operating and it’s a level set that will allow more interesting services and applications to happen on top of that basic infrastructure.

It was an exciting year at NAB, it will be interesting to see how this year shapes up!

And that’s a wrap!