The future of TV: will the Cloud reign?

14 November 2016

In the second of a two-part series ahead of the IPA's Effectiveness Week, ISBA's media and advertising manager eyes a world of cloud-based broadcasting.

 The next stage for broadcasting in any form, could be that everything will sit in the Cloud. A good thing some might say, especially the user. Will we eventually, at some point say bye-bye to the set top box and hello to being able to subscribe or stream TV using numerous cloud services – TV linear broadcasting potentially being one of them?

As I say, great news for the user as the choice of what to watch, where to watch it and on what device becomes limitless. Will there still be a need to wait for it to become available on iPlayer for example, when the user can stream the programme. But what will the wider effects potentially be, there can’t be too many downsides, surely? 

I suppose the first concern will be around security. At present, I know that if my personal information, sits on a physical hard drive it's mine (and I probably have a back-up somewhere else). If it's in the cloud it could potentially be anybody's this information may include my TV viewing preferences which the likes of Netflix, UKTV and All4 currently hold.

 

My next concern is around the software itself and how safe it actually is. As we know, all software is ‘hackable’, and the cloud is no exception, even if it ‘hacking’ it is just for fun. If you can hack a vending machine (just have a look at the numerous videos on YouTube on how to do this*) you can hack the cloud. This has already happened to a certain degree – leaked photographs of naked celebrities anyone? 

That may be me just being a bit flippant but on a serious note these huge data centres in the cloud that house all sorts of sensitive information, bank details, health records, credit history – could also be extended to broadcast live TV programmes.

Coupled with the fact that social media networks and the ‘dark’ web can accelerate the spread of the 'how to' part, it wouldn’t surprise me that no matter how much security is put around these data centres that live virtually, someone will find a way.

As far as linear TV is concerned, to ‘hack a broadcast’ would be almost impossible at present no matter what the movies tell you. There are also strict guidelines on what can and can’t be advertised, how many minutes, the nine o’clock watershed etc…. But here’s the rub, what if, in the new way of broadcasting this system is hacked for more sinister uses? 

I’m thinking Die Hard 4.0 (not Brucie’s best) where a country was held to ransom by a bloke who knew the flaws of a system. Iron Man 3 is another fictional example, a terrorist organisation with the technological means to infiltrate society at a whim…..scary stuff! Cyber-security will have to be invested in and continuously upgraded to stay one step ahead of the hackers but that’s another piece entirely.

 

These concerns aside, there are positive developments that could come to pass in a cloud-based future. It could pave the way for new entrants into the TV market. Having read the excellent and thought-provoking article written last year by Richard Craig-McFeely from Tata Communications – discussing technological advances which make entering the TV market it far easier than ever before – so why has no-one really done it?

To quote Mr Craig McFeely: "Broadcast cloud technology has developed very quickly over the last five years. It is possible to upload broadcast quality content direct from a production location, edit it remotely, review and approve it by global teams, add metadata, transcode it into different formats, and play it out as a channel – all in the cloud. The technology exists and is available now."

In addition to the above, because it’s ‘new’ do the new entrants still have to abide by the rules. Maybe, maybe not? But this needs to be thought about so the same mistakes are not made again, much like the online world which I mentioned in part 1.

Another upside could make it a very interesting time for advertisers with even more opportunities, especially the part regarding metadata. This is where true, real-time targeting could come into play, a more direct build on Sky’s Adsmart, if the advertiser chooses to go down that route. If the user can view whatever, wherever and on whatever, the advertiser will have to up their ‘data-gathering game’ in order to know where their intended audience is - the metadata should help with this. Some will have work than others in this area. 

A login to a cloud service may also be required, payment details etc… may be stored in the cloud much like the data we hand over without a thought to the likes of Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook.

Apple is still a bit of a ‘walled garden’ much like Facebook et al – they just don’t like to share, although they are getting better at that. Fair enough, but imagine that type of data at an advertiser’s fingertips – this obviously depends on the cloud service, with Amazon being the biggest, having been in the cloud game for over ten years, followed by Microsoft.

As I mentioned in part one, a cloud service can also go down the two tier system route, one with ads and one without. Can you imagine Coronation Street or The X Factor without the ads?

This will have an evolutionary effect on TV. Will it eventually become a different type of free and will users be able access TV content including ads, should they wish, whenever, wherever....?

(Disclaimer: I do not condone the hacking of vending machines using these methods, no matter how thirsty you are!)

Mario Yiannacou is the media and advertising manager at ISBA


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