Broadcaster’s dixit: the future of TV. Disney.


Answers by Jon Edwards, Vice President Media Platforms Engineering at Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution Technology

Business models are changing. How does television as we know it have to evolve to survive?
The rise, proliferation and maturation of streaming platforms have definitely changed the viewing experience and have met the promise of meeting the consumer where they want to engage their content. This has fundamentally changed and drawn starker lines on the traditional, linear television experience – but that linear experience is very much intact. The linear experience of live sports, live entertainment, news, and local programming have actually flourished – especially where we ensured they were equally proliferated on digital platforms. The consumer can engage with live linear experiences on a variety of platforms with quality and persistence – made possible by implementing key technologies and performance monitoring like our traditional platforms.

The business model has irrevocably changed – where our technology used to be focused on one to many or business to business – we have shifted that model over the years to our digital service providers. This change meant a shift in focus that is direct-to-consumer in scope – so we needed to likewise shift technology and approach. Looking to the future, we know that broadcasters will all need to keep the consumer squarely in mind. We know that live experiences or event- based viewing is critical to engage the consumer in real-time, at the highest quality and without impairments. The good news is that evolution has already occurred. Technologists need to continue this progression by minimizing latency of the stream to the consumer and continuously providing performance and quality and experience enhancements. This ensures that real-time engagement with our consumers will always be desired and available.


What should be the role of television in society?
The role of television today is to (still) provide engaging, real-time and communal experiences that cannot be replicated on any other platform. Not ironically, this brings television full circle and back to its foundation – giving that live or event-based communal experience to a wide audience as it happens.


What technological change will bring about a new revolution in broadcasting?
Technology will drive the next revolution of broadcasting with technologies that drive latency and increase persistency of quality to viewers no matter how they consume it. The tenets of broadcast has always been that real-time experience with both persistency and quality – the future will be no different. However, we have a lot to borrow from what made the streaming platform experience a success – expanded viewing options like preferred audio or language, quality options to suit your experience, rich metadata to enhance the experiences, dynamic ads and experience, etc. In the end, if we can provide the options that streaming platforms have established, that will make for a seamless experience for the consumer when they want to pop out from binging a series and straight over to a live event – they have all of the same options available to them.


5G, cloud, IP, virtualized production… will we ever see a world without wires?
If the pandemic has done anything for broadcasters it has pushed and accelerated a world without wires by shifting how we coordinate, assemble, execute and distribute television – we had to virtualize every aspect of the pipeline to accommodate working from home and minimizing dependency on site. All of the wireless, cloud and virtualized toolsets were all brought to bear to continue getting content out to our consumers. Broadcasters were not able to ‘stop’ what they do in getting news, event-based or live experiences delivered – there was no luxury to pause. Luckily, we have been implementing and exploring these technologies before the pandemic – and the tools themselves scale very nicely to accommodate what we needed. Because these tools are extensible and flexible we only needed a matter of days or weeks to work around the restrictions of a pandemic. It definitely changed how we normally do things, but broadcasters are resilient and always have an eye on how to get the best possible outcome to the consumer. In most cases, the content and the experience did not skip a beat – but only because of an industry that has historically known how to shift and adopt quickly with technology.


What would be, technologically speaking, the perfect television infrastructure?
Not withstanding any current technological challenges, the perfect television infrastructure would ultimately ensure that the consumer receives what they want, when they want it, no matter what service or device. That said, the perfect infrastructure would ensure close to zero latency, passing the highest quality from the camera to the viewer, provides zero disruption and instant failover, align all pertinent metadata to the end-point, provide dynamic ads that target the interest of the consumer, and provide engagement and other enhancements that further the experience.

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