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Road to IBC: Q&A with Albert Lai

Road to IBC: Q&A with Albert Lai

In advance of IBC, we sat down with Albert Lai, CTO for media and broadcast solutions at Brightcove, to learn more about the trends and issues he expects will be hot topics for discussion during the show.

Q: As the media and broadcast industries head to Amsterdam in droves in mid-September, what issues will be most top-of-mind for digital media professionals attending IBC?

A: The positive news is that we've had a number of new announcements around devices and platforms - from Chromecast to Xbox to PS4 - that extend the number of touchpoints that publishers have with their global audience. The common theme hasn't changed: how to maximize the value of video on every screen. But the challenges - both technology and business - have not disappeared. Device fragmentation continues to affect the ability for publishers to deliver high-quality video experiences that are consistently monetized and measured; however, a number of technologies and standards - MPEG-DASH, 4K, H.265/HEVC, HbbTV - were of interest last year at IBC and earlier this year at NAB, and many of us will be excited to see how these are falling into place as publishers start to plan for 2014.

Q: Looking into your crystal ball, what online video pain points do you think you will address most frequently during conversations with prospects and customers at the show?

A: One of the trends that has been accelerating over the past 12-18 months is the growth of live and linear as core digital products along with traditional VOD. As these content types become part of a publisher's digital programming portfolio, they need to ensure that their live and linear workflow is aligned with their VOD workflow. This includes content security (e.g., DRM, policy), measurement (e.g., video engagement, QoS), advertising (e.g., pre-roll, mid-roll, post-roll for VOD and dynamic ad insertion for live and linear) and content delivery to users.

Q: Recently, you've blogged extensively about sports programming and related digital initiatives. Do you believe TV Everywhere and live streaming efforts are the core online focus areas for sports broadcasters? What else is a priority? 

A: Sports programming has been one of the most valued types of programming due to its inherent nature as appointment viewing. The entitlement process - whether PPV, SVOD or the US-centric TV Everywhere - will likely remain closely tied to sports programming as a business model. The exciting opportunity for sports programming - based on its real-time nature - is how we define second screen and social viewing. Sports events provide broadcasters with a unique opportunity to create a second screen experience that is unlike filmed entertainment - whether a viewer is watching on their television, viewing at a bar or cheering from the stands, the mobile device becomes a real-time extension of complementary video content (e.g., multi-camera replays, highlights), video creation (e.g., fan videos), social dialog, social sharingand monetization.

Q: How and why are our digital media customers pursuing a native app experience for consumers (their viewers)?

A: When looking at the top mobile platforms - iOS and Android - both suffer from device fragmentation, though Android is more challenging due to the number of manufacturers, differences in capabilities between 2.x and 4.x, variety of hardware profiles and the bimodal distribution of the audience across those versions. Many publishers want a highly optimized, customized, an interactive experience, DRM and an ABR video experience. While the hope of HTML5 is to provide a standard for a common video experience, it is subject to fragmentation due to varying browser support. Mobile Web just isn't there (yet). Brightcove has created a flexible set of mobile SDKs that normalize capabilities across platforms and versions: pre-integrated advertising with leading ad servers, pre-integrated analytics with leading measurement vendors, ABR playback for VOD and live, and cross-platform DRM. Publishers now have a flexible and powerful foundation to build unique video experiences as we take care of abstracting away the complexity.

Q: What are you most excited for related to IBC? What exhibitors--besides Brightcove!--do you think will make waves at the show? How so?

A: IBC brings together a wide range of publishers, services and technology providers. While we all face challenges for our own businesses, the conference offers the chance to share best practices, identify common patterns, and discover new solutions. I expect to see a number of companies demonstrating early implementations for different parts of MPEG-DASH - those will be of particular interest as we watch it evolve from concept to at-scale deployments over the next several years.