Friday, 11 May 2018

Report: 2018 Spring Conference - The Future of TV

The Tommy Flowers Spring Conference took place 6 – 7 March 2018 - our fourth conference and the best attended yet!

A jam-packed audience of well over 100 people attended across the two days, exploring the Future of TV. Industry experts including Ericsson and OFCOM; together with academia and post-graduate researchers joined senior representatives from some of the World’s biggest TV and production companies, including the BBC and BT Sport.

It was also brilliant to have support from our Innovation Martlesham companies: Sandvine, Huawei, Cisco; NetComm Wireless; Coderus; ADVA and Diometer – many of whom gave technology demo sessions.

Watch the video highlights here:

BT’s Lisa Perkins, the Research and Innovation Director for Adastral Park opened the conference. Lisa provided a great overview of the topic, highlighting that even with rapid technological change, there is always the fundamental desire to tell a good story well – people want to communicate, transact and be entertained.

Attendees were encouraged to think about changes in the delivery of TV; the way the production of TV will change and addressed the ways that we understand how our audience will change.
Sharing and communicating these ideas with each other certainly proved to be a very interactive conference.
The Story

Dr Vinoba Vinayagamoorthy, provided an amazing insight into her career, from being home schooled, chasing her ambitions as a female in science and technology, through to her current role in BBC Design & Engineering. Vinoba’s focus was about enabling richer interactions in multi-screen experiences and VR technologies. Examples given included headsets which take you to music festivals with your friends and how people can post live images onto webpages and becoming part of a TV show. She explained how Accessibility is key – enabling people to personalise the technology to meet their needs. How by using an avatar environment can give you the feeling of being in the action – the award winning documentary, “We Wait”, about Syrian refugees on a boat, was provided as an example. Vinoba explained how AI technology can actually provide additional workload but how it is also enabling a richer content.
You can get involved at Twitter: @what2donext @bbcrd

Matt Locke, founder of Storythings looked at the way technology shapes the way we tell stories. Matt compared Scheduling and Streaming. He explained how there is a dark art to scheduling! The thoughts behind what you place before and after a certain programme; how people experience the schedule at the same time and how media experts such as politicians can use the power of scheduling to talk to people.
Streaming, however, is endless; is mobile – moving from device to device and can be decontextualized ie reduced to the basic information such as a picture and heading. Beware of "dopamine" side effects – suffering from a ratty brain because of too much streaming!!

Interestingly, it is found that publishers are now moving out of streaming and into subscription relationships – a more trusted relationship with their readers.

Co-founder of Illuminations, John Wyver, presented on television but not as we knew it. John commented that the past uses of television were much more varied than TV today and by looking backwards can help us look forwards. A fascinating insight into theatre from the 1930s and how people were able to connect to live broadcast.

Steve Sharman, Hackthorn Innovation – presented on how to help storytellers use technology to tell the most engaging stories that they can. Examples of Walt Disney and George Lucas were given as pioneers who helped push forward the art of storytelling using technology. To tell a story, you need to be able to write, communicate and be bold!

The Delivery

Ofcom’s Simon Parnall, spoke about the opportunities and challenges facing the industry; looked at some of the prevalent myths and considered the real needs of our citizens and consumers.
Simon provided interesting stats about what British people are watching on TV, such as how there is a greater use for paid demand TV by young adults aged 16 – 24 and how there is a globalisation of television markets , such as Netflix. He also highlighted that 82% watch TV in SD and not in HD or UHD – why is that so? Connectivity is getting more and more complicated and that users want to navigate through the vast choice easily and simply.
An overview of BT TV and Broadband Services was provided by Dr Simon Jones, Gabriel Martin & James Unitt.
Simon, TV Architect, provided a top level view of BT TV. Simon looked at how BT TV support their customers across the media value chain, such as support for broadcasters and channel owners; for production and post-production and for Rights holders. He explained what a competitive and innovative market BT operates; how Linear TV is more than just pictures and that it’s now available on main screen TV and devices. With television still evolving, Simon described various technology trails looking at resolution; dynamic range; colour and enhanced audio. For the BTTV Set top Box (STB), a voice control trail is also taking place. Finally, BT TV Media and Broadcast are facing challenges in customer experience – Simon described the programmes addressing Transformation; Speed to Market and Service Management.
Gabs, explained that the Network Connectivity used within the TV Contribution area over the coming years is going to change beyond recognition, as the cost of Bandwidth drops significantly and Broadcasters transition their studio’s interfaces from baseband SDI to IP as compliant with SMPTE 2110.

His presentation ran through a System and Network architecture that makes use of Software Defined Network principle in the networks servicing the TV contribution area. It also touched on briefly the use of End to End Service Orchestrator that will help simplify the overall customer Experience.

James, Manager and Design Authority for the TV Headend Team, focused on the head end key tenets. He explained that the TV headend is at the heart of TV business economics – the effects at the source are amplified throughout the network. James also explained evolution of the headend network and the evolution of appliances vs compressed IP contribution.
Andy Rayner, Chief Technologist at Nevion, explored broadcast television production and transport. Andy looked at WAN and CAMPUS technologies; security RTP – how protection principles and timing principles are built around this; media origination timing; IP media edge and how to protect media flows and the technology-agnostic user experience.
Prof Alan Chalmers from the University of Warwick presented on high quality compression for displays of the future. Alan explored HDR (High Dynamic Range) displays.
Alan discussed the need for new approaches to HDR video compression, explaining they are efficient, able to cope with the brighter displays of the future and can adapt - not only to changing ambient lighting, but also to the mood of the content, to always ensure an enhanced viewing experience.

The Production

Jamie Hindhaugh, COO, BT Sport and BT TV captivated the audience with his career history, from ITV to London 2012 to his move to BT Sport and BT TV.

Jamie described how the reputation of BT Sport is so crucial with dedication from across the team – consisting of experts in the industry and third parties, in order to deliver the innovative services.

How can we in BT Sport deliver and demonstrate how innovative BT are? Jamie discussed in detail fibre broadband and BT Infinity – delivering 4K over IP – but producing content at the same time for both HD and 4K users, even by reducing down to one delivery truck. This was made possible by some 14 suppliers working with them.

Some interesting stats came out from Jamie’s talk:
  • BT Sport at Olympic Park was created and up and running in 9 months
  • It’s the best production studios in Europe - 76 events in HD and 4K delivered in 2015
  • 357 live events in 4K ultra HD – the best live producer in the world
  • In 2015, launched enhanced App overlay, enabling viewers to go back in a live game to view stats. Enabling people to engage how they wish
  • In 2016, 360 cameras put you into the stadium during live coverage
  • EE shops on the high street captured people’s feedback during live games where they could watch on 360 headsets
  • 2016 saw Innovation Lab winners – SeenIt – technology enable fans to submit live script during football games, including questions to pundits.
  • In 2017 BT Sport was produced in 4K with Dolby Atmos. The sound enhances the experience by 60%
  • IBC Innovation Award presented 2nd year running
  • Have you noticed that commentators don’t talk on BT Sport when fans in the stadium are singing!
  • 2017 UCL Final VR360 – the commentator has control of the 360 cameras and can share with the audience where to look
Where does Jamie believe where the next steps are?
  • Picture quality needs to improve – being able to zoom in and out in the field of view
  • Enabling content to fit for both phones and the big screen
  • Object based production – giving the audience control on what they want to view

Simon Gauntlett, from Dolby provided an insightful look into how Dolby deliver spectacular experiences with images and sound - from understanding how neuro scientists research the impact of what people are watching to how their bodies react to the combination of colour and intensities used on a screen.
Dolby believe that accessibility is also key to enable the user to customise their experience.
An insight into Dolby Audio looked at Dolby Atmos technologies – how sounds are individually coded and bouncing sound off ceilings to really give the impression of things happening all around over your head.
Simon also looked at future environments such as using all the senses; volumetric capture and light field arrays and automotive entertainment – driverless cars becoming offices or living rooms of the future!

Cisco’s James Walker, introduced the audience to 2-Immerse – a platform for Immersive Object-Based Multi-Screen Experiences. To deliver these service prototypes, 2-Immerse is developing an extensible standards-based platform to support the production, delivery and orchestration of these immersive "Distributed Media Applications".
James introduced the theatre and sports-based service prototypes that have been designed, developed and trialled by the project and highlighted their key features. Examples such as enabling and inspiring content owners and TV service providers to create synchronised multi screen experiences that are flexible, interactive and customisable.

In 2017, Theatre was brought to people in their homes. Text chat took place between two homes watching the theatre. They received notifications during the interval; details of the actors about to appear on stage; the bell ringing to tell people to take their seats – all similar to being in the theatre itself.

Key dates:
  • Winter 2017 saw Motor GP at home. Feature rich content; objected based experience; user control features; responsive layout; rider on-board bike feeds
  • Spring 2018 saw live football at home
  • Autumn 2018 will see Theatre brought into schools
Project website and blog with videos can be viewed at:

Marian Ursu, University of York presented, The future of TV, exploring algorithms and AI and the role they have in storytelling for the future.
Marian asked what do we think about AI? Would we trust machines to do story telling? Would they help us receive and experience better stories?
Marian provided two examples of specific projects:
- eSports
- Object Based Media
In ESports, computer games are played competitively and watched by audiences. It’s also broadcast – mainly by Youtube and twitter. In 2016, 320m people watched and $596m revenue. By 2020, it’s predicted that 580m people will watch and $1.5bn revenue – a very large market.
By using Big Data, extraordinary performances within the game can be extracted eg personal bests. This data is automatically passed to the commentators – this being called a narrative bit.
Object Based Media allows the content of programmes to change according to the requirements of each individual audience member. The "objects" refer to the different aspects that are used to make a piece of content, such as a video or audio. AI is put into a recipe to solve this problem.
"Don’t place AI anywhere in particular", says Marian, "production teams with AI are in charge of both production and distribution of content. Co-creativity is essential for authoring flexible media – TV content is interactive with this."

Consumption of TV

Olivier Wellmann, VP of Product Management at Conviva – who develop and market an AI platform for intelligent video measurement and analytics for the over-the-top market. Customers include more than a hundred of the top publishers globally.
Olivier described how they collect data in order to help with the viewer experience. He explained that they capture 3m events a second across the globe. Olivier highlighted various key facts and figures, including:
People watch for longer on devices
  • Consumer behaviour is shifting towards video Apps rather than browsers
  • Viewing hours on video Apps is at 160%, compared to browser growth of 23%
  • iOS phones watch double the amount of video vs Android owners
Olivier presented European country viewing time. UK is ahead of the game, but this is probably because the UK is has one of the best OTT services available.
"Device type and levels of expectations have all changed", said Olivier, "people are demanding much more".
Further breakdown of the stats can be viewed on Oliver’s slides via our post event BLOG pages.
Anders Erlandsson, Ericsson Consumer Lab, analysed consumer behaviour, attitudes and trends to provide actionable consumer insights and forecasts.

Anders described the TV User Groups who they talk to each year – 100k consumers: TV Couch traditionalist; Screen Shifter; Computer Centric; Mobility Centric; Average TV Joe and TV Zero.

Very interesting stats came out in the discussion:

Smart Phone viewing
  • Around 70 percent of consumers watch TV and video on a smartphone today – twice as many as in 2012.
  • Smartphones make up a fifth of total viewing, with approximately six hours per week spent watching TV and video on the device
Mobile and on-demand by 2020
  • Half of all viewing will be done on a mobile screen, and half of this will be done on the smartphone alone.
  • About 7 out of 10 consumers will prefer on-demand and catch-up services over scheduled linear TV viewing, and almost half of all viewing will be on-demand.
  • A third of consumers are projected to use VR
  • VR could be a rebirth of social viewing for people on their own
  • 16–19 year olds spend more than half of their time watching on-demand, an increase of more than 100% – or almost 10 hours a week – since 2010.
  • 60–69 year olds, on the other hand, still spend almost 80% of their viewing time watching live and scheduled linear TV, which is almost as much as in 2013.
Content Delivery

Current content discovery capabilities are failing to cope with consumers' usage of multiple video services and devices, which is why 7 out of 10 consumers say a universal search feature would be very useful.

Fraser Burton, BT’s Head of University Research, closed the event by underlining the national significance of this research area. The UK Government’s Industrial Strategy White Paper has announced that to support UK priorities in key areas of innovation there will be a further Wave 2 investment of £725m in the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund over the next four years. There are six Industrial Strategy Challenges in Wave 2, notably including "Audience of the Future", with funding up to £33m.
Immersive technologies such as virtual, augmented and mixed reality are changing how we experience the world around us – from entertainment and art to shops and classrooms.
The challenge is to bring creative businesses, researchers and technologists together to create striking new experiences that are accessible to the general public. This can create the next generation of products, services and experiences that will capture the world’s attention and position the UK as the global leader in immersive technologies

Tommy Flowers Institute - What’s Next?


The next Tommy Flowers Institute Conference will take place from 18th – 19th September 2018 at Adastral Park.
Focus will be "Repurposed Innovation – Tech MashUp". All industry Post Graduate Researchers are encouraged to attend along with academia and industry.
Register now
Summer Placement
As well as the conference, students based at Adastral Park over the summer, will be able to take part in some organised activities.
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