Monitoring vendors face various challenges highlighted at NAB 2023, including demands for consultant Quality of Experience across multiple channels, and between adverts and programming content. Then specifically for the US market, a notable theme at NAB will be the rise of Next-Gen television to the ATSC-3.0 standards, since these broadcasts are subject to the same regulatory requirements, such as Closed Captioning/Subtitles for the hearing impaired.
Monitoring has grown into a major pillar of video technology in the streaming era because of the need to cope with unmanaged distribution networks over which broadcasters and content distributors have no direct control. Instead, they can only measure and then respond accordingly, both in real time as far as possible to sustain quality during transmissions, and then through measures designed to improve the experience over the longer term.
Current trends evident at NAB 2023 include increased focus on predictive maintenance to anticipate problems before they affect the viewing experience. Another is consistency across the different distribution channels, both linear and OTT, as well as between live and on demand content. The need to enforce compliance standards over factors such as loudness and closed captioning consistently across outlets has become more pressing, as a result of regulatory pressure and the expansion of distribution to different transmission media.
Within this context the issue of consistency between programming content and the ads contained within them has grown, according to Anupama Anantharaman, Vice President of Product Management at Interra Systems. “Potential customers are looking for faster error resolution, live monitoring, and ad-insertion monitoring,”
There is also growing demand for verifying that ads have been played, as well as for confirmation they comply with visual proofing to prevent abnormalities or artefacts appearing within ads that could affect a brand negatively or impair impact, according to Ken Rubin, Senior VP of Sales at Actus. For this reason, Actus has chosen at NAB to launch its AdWatch workflow for automated audio and video content detection.
Demand for ad monitoring is strongest in the US market, making NAB 2023 ideal for launch of such packages. Although attracting many exhibitors and delegates from all over the world, NAB 2023 inevitably is more US centric than the other major global broadcasting show IBC. This is reflected in early deployments of the latest third generation American digital terrestrial standard ATSC 3.0 being a prominent theme at NAB 2023, as Rubin noted.
“Since last NAB, a vast number of US markets have started transmitting Next-Gen television ATSC-3.0 and those broadcasts are subjected to the same regulatory requirements, including proper airing of Emergency Alert System (EAS) notifications, Closed Captioning/Subtitles for the hearing impaired, fairness in political advertising, and Loudness compliance like the CALM Act,” Rubin pointed out.
This view is largely shared by Brick Eksten, CEO at Qligent. “The single greatest impact has been the continued ATSC 3.0 rollout and addressing the different approaches and challenges that comes in a shared ATSC 3.0 network,” said Eksten. He referred to ATSC 3.0’s one-to-many “lighthouse” over-the-air distribution model where small groups of broadcast stations share spectrum to optimize wireless capacity utilization, noting that some channels fell outside this model, which has to be addressed in monitoring.
Although a North American standard, the issues arising over ATSC 3.0 deployment are relevant for other regions also moving towards convergence between digital terrestrial and 5G broadcast on the one hand, and between linear and internet broadcasting on the other. In Europe, for example, the DVB has been promoting DVB-I (internet) to enable migration of linear services to broadband networks, whether fixed or mobile, with the same quality.
Indeed, at NAB 2023 there will be talk of greater collaboration between the four global digital terrestrial standards, that is ATSC for North America, DVB in Europe and some other countries, DMB in China, and ISDB for Japan, some Latin American countries, and the Philippines.
Renewed focus on terrestrial transmission has come as broadcasters migrate towards cloud-based delivery, as Eksten noted. “As more customers migrate to the cloud and increase adoption of public internet distribution, monitoring services across the broader networks no matter the technology becomes much more of a focus for our customers,” said Eksten.
The other trend standing out at NAB 2023 is the growing scope of monitoring for monetization at the service level through incorporation of AI techniques, over and above compliance and fundamental AV (audio video) quality. Rubin cited the growing integration of AI to distribute news programming ahead of competition and even allow sales teams to deliver a return-on-investment (ROI) through the same platform used for compliance logging and QA (Quality Assurance).
“AI keyword alert notifications on relevant topics, based on CC (Closed Captioning) or speech-to-text transcription and translation, allow news organizations to be alerted to breaking news,” said Rubin. “Through automatic repurposing of news stories based on keywords and/or program names, they can beat competitors to publishing those stories on-demand, even when they were not the station breaking the story.”
Actus (Booth W1767) is building its NAB 2023 presence around two product announcements. One is its OTT Streamwatch for monitoring and performing QoS analysis of native HLS streams and especially FAST (Free Ad Supported TV) channels. The other is Version 9.0 of its Intelligent Monitoring Platform, with new features for broadcast engineers and updates to the firm’s Remote Video Monitoring (RVM) for MVPDs (Multichannel Video Programming Distributors), a catch all term for many commercial media service providers. The RVM includes the company’s AdWatch, which Rubin describes as “producing AI-generated Zero-Run and Delta lead lists for TV station sales teams.”
Rubin is referring here to the ability of AdWatch to identify which ads are trending by recognizing key words either in the audio or video, with the AI then deducing the origin of the ad. “One of the coolest and perhaps surprise uses of AI in the Actus system is the ability for sales teams within TV Stations to increase their sales revenue by following up on prioritized lead-lists produced by Actus AI technology,” he said. “Immediate reports of new advertisers in their market and those spending more on competitive stations allow them to maximize revenue and increase profit.”
Interra Systems (Booth N3159) is majoring on its Quality Control (QC), media analysis, and monitoring platforms, that is BATON, VEGA, and ORION, according to Anantharaman.
BATON features machine learning (ML) for quality and compliance checks over VOD content, for both linear and streaming workflows, whether in the cloud or on premise.
The original ORION for linear broadcasting has been augmented by a second flavor, ORION-OTT for live and on demand streaming. Both cover various aspects of content monitoring, including MPEG TS, ABR manifests, Closed Captions, and Ad Insertions, with full support for cloud environments.
Then the VEGA Media Analyzer (VMA) is for standards compliance, debug, and to ensure interoperability of encoded streams. The company will also be showing its range of ML services that allow broadcasters and OTT service providers to automate various critical content related monitoring functions, such as detection of violence and explicit scenes, faces, language, and key regulatory elements that vary between countries.
Anantharaman cited ability to use the latest COTS (Common Off The Shelf) CPUs, and deep-dive monitoring capabilities, as differentiators. “In addition, we’ve been able to bolster our BATON QC platform with features such as captions and other compliance-related functionalities that utilize machine learning (ML) technologies, which has kept it ahead of the curve,” she added.
Qligent (Booth N3304) Vision 3 and Vision 5 platforms, both support ATSC 3.0 and help address issues arising from its deployment. “We will emphasize overall improvements in Vision 5, highlighting its ability to scale as a cloud-native microservices solution,” said Eksten. “There will be a strong focus on QoS for high-scale networks and end-to-end monitoring of the media supply chain. We will also communicate its inclusive support for both SDI and SMPTE ST 2110 media workflows.”
Qligent will highlight its focus on what Eksten called true end-to-end monitoring and ability to operate at high scale. “Of course, we support everything from compressed to uncompressed file formats across a variety of packages and containers, but our focus is on tying that back to the business of operating the channel that has the biggest impact,” said Eksten. “As an example, as-run logging indexed to analytics data can provide both proof of delivery and meaningful insight into impacts caused by system, signal or network errors.”
Eksten expressed the hope that the show would help convince prospective and existing customers that the company was on “the right track with our focus on IP, cloud and public networks. We want to be sure that the problems we aim to solve align with the challenges that broadcasters face today and in the near future.”
While events always deliver some surprises that cannot be anticipated in advance, it is clear that regulatory compliance issues will be flagged up in demonstrations and product launches at NAB. To some extent this is a box ticking exercise for vendors and there will be more excitement over the growing contribution monitoring can play below as well as above the bottom line by helping generate new revenues. This includes leads for adverts by identifying which ones are trending or new, and for similar reasons there is scope for improving content recommendations. The role of AI, primarily Machine Learning (ML), will be widely proclaimed and discussed across the whole monitoring chain, from loudness control through proactive monitoring and troubleshooting, to content moderation.
Other articles in this NAB 2023 'Show Focus' series:
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