Two tips from Amsterdam: Voice and AI are 2017’s hottest topics at IBC

IBC is by a distance Europe’s largest event for the TV and media technology community, with hundreds of exhibitors and tens of thousands of attendees gathering in Amsterdam each September looking to buy, sell and learn. It’s an established annual tradition to get lost in the cavernous RAI exhibition centre, drink too much (bad) coffee and catch up on who’s doing what, and with whom.

But from the millions of conversations taking place this year, which subjects were top of mind for industry executives? Last year, IBC’s big story was VR, but this year it was much less prominent, with some wondering in hindsight if it isn’t, after all, the new 3D.

This year, MTM was part of the IBC conference event, asking a panel of senior industry figures to identify the hot topics for 2017. In their view, confirmed also by the numerous discussions MTM’s own team had through the whole event, two trends stood out: the use of voice-activated interfaces to help viewers search and discover content; and the application of artificial intelligence (AI) to the TV industry.

Voice will become the default way to find content on a TV

Voice search technology, popularised by the latest Amazon Fire TV stick, is high on the radar of broadcasters and vendors. As Channel 4’s CTO Orpheus Warr put it, voice search technology has “real momentum” and is “super close to tipping point.”

Voice is a priority for cable operators too. Adrian Drury, Technology and Strategy Director for Liberty Global, confirmed that voice will be part of its next-generation TV platform: “Voice UI is what our customers want and we’ve been doing a lot of work around that.”

The panel felt the potential of voice as a way for viewers to access the content they want in a relatively frictionless way, will be truly fulfilled when combined with this year’s other big topic, AI.

AI will create efficiencies and opportunities across the TV value chain

There is still some confusion about how to define AI, with many preferring to talk about machine learning instead. Whatever the nomenclature, mining the growing volumes of consumer data in a smart way to generate actionable insights will create huge new opportunities across the media value chain. Athough it also has the potential to disrupt most parts of that chain, too.

The opportunities for applying machine learning to numerous business areas, from content production and scheduling, to content recommendation and advertising, are now widely recognised in the industry. But many participants, based on our discussions at IBC, are still unclear exactly how it will work and what the benefits will look like.

The migration to the cloud is still the big(gest) news overall

Voice and AI were the two trends generating most heat at IBC this year, but the rollout of cloud infrastructure and the shift to IP delivery remain at the top of most executives’ minds too. One area where this rollout will most impact consumers, and where the competition is expected to be most intense, is in the creation and delivery of OTT sports video services at “better than broadcast” quality. Was it just MTM, or are we seeing sports content, as it was for the pay-TV pioneers, become the “battering ram” for next-generation OTT services?

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If you attended IBC, and would like to meet up, or just discuss any of the topics covered during the conference, do not hesitate to get in touch.

About Nick Thomas

Nick Thomas joined MTM as a Strategy Associate Director. In the last 25 years he has worked in a variety of roles in the media and entertainment industry, including a film journalist. He covered the Cannes Film Festival several times but insists it wasn’t as much fun as people think.