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BroadcastAsia: NDI paving the way to IP ecosystem, coming of super aggregators 

By Andrew Yeo

Declaring himself as immune to the pesky Coronavirus, Paul Maroni of Magna Systems & Engineering was smiling broadly and welcoming the numerous trade visitors to his booth at BroadcastAsia 2022. “After two years of intermittent lockdowns and travel restrictions, I am happy to be at Singapore Expo to meet our clients and trade visitors face-to-face, one-to-one.

“We’re glad to be able to interact with our customers from Malaysia, Indonesia, India, the Philippines, Singapore and others from around the region, including some clients from Australia.”

Maroni, the company’s Group Sales & Marketing Manager, revealed he recovered from Covid in February and deemed himself immune.

“Don’t be scared,” he said, referring not to catching Covid-19 but to the new wave of changes buffeting the broadcast industry. “With NDI well supported, building an IP infrastructure in the cloud is the path to the future; be brave and embrace the way forward.

“We are here to demonstrate our commitment to the industry; we are showcasing an entire IP ecosystem and cloud-enabled products, technology, and solutions from many of our key partners including Alibaba Cloud, Chyron Graphics, Enensys, EVS, Quantum, TAG Video, Telestream, TVU and VideoFlow.”

As IP is still new to some broadcasters in the region, Magna’s partners were on hand to explain the full IP ecosystem at its  stand.

“We are offering best-of-breed systems, and with the core infrastructure based on SMPTE ST-2110 it’s seamless integration to cloud services,” said Maroni, adding that the biggest challenge today in going from baseband to IP is not so much the hardware but difficulty in finding network specialists.

Maroni advised, “Proper training in IP technology has become a very important element in implementing Cloud TV — and so always choose a partner you can trust.”

For PlayBox Neo, providing systematic staff training has always been a critical mission, said CEO Pavlin Rahnev.

Demonstrating his latest channel branding, and playout systems and services at the June 1-3 trade show, Rahnev said: “Our SaaS-based Cloud2TV solution offers scalability with almost limitless channels and, like our core AirBox Neo-20 series, Cloud2TV offers operators the freedom to implement full automation or switch to live feeds for late-breaking news.”

Designed for onsite or IP-linked offsite operation, AirBox Neo-20 is a server-based TV channel branding and playout system supported by a wide range of software modules. But no matter how easy it is to operate, thorough training is requisite.

Rahnev said, “PlayBox has been providing online training even before Covid-19 appeared. With proper training and understanding of the capabilities of PlayBox Neo’s Capture Suite, operators can launch multiple ingest channels to be managed across different servers in double quick time.

“There’s no need to build infrastructure, with content you can start a channel almost instantly.”

Its ‘channels-in-a-box’ attracted visitors from seven countries including broadcasters from Vietnam and Mongolia.

As almost 95% of the world’s broadcasters are using Grass Valley’s systems or components, the company’s Vice-President APAC & Global Head of Channel, Greg de Bressac, and his team had a busy time on the first two days of the show, greeting their many customers who wanted to tell him ‘We Love Live’ too.

“Grass Valley (GV) has a large footprint in Asia … and we’re glad to see our customers again, to talk to people, to shake hands.

“Many who came are key operators from South-east Asia, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Pakistan and a few from Sri Lanka as well as groups from neighbouring countries.

“Some came to learn what we’re bringing from NAB 2022 and how we are supporting customers as they transition to the future of media and entertainment, migrating to a more flexible, cloud-based approach that empowers broadcasters to keep ahead of new trends, seize new opportunities and embrace sustainable business models.”

GV announced in April that Diversified, a leading global technology solutions provider, has joined the GV Media Universe (GVMU) Advanced Channel Partner programme.

As cloud production is real and scalable, more media operators  are keen to learn how to use new technologies to realise their  return on investment.

How will Diversified extend the reach of GV’s AMPP (Agile Media Processing Platform) commercial, integration and technical teams to provide media companies with a path to the cloud?

De Bressac maintained that GV and Diversified, working together, is a best of breed partnership. “We can guide our customers to achieve untold value that cloud-native workflows can bring.”

Love Live, embrace NDI

Grass Valley also announced that its AMPP now provides full support for NDI, the widely adopted video-over-IP technology.

With the adoption of NDI into AMPP, GV’s cloud-native production and playout platform, Asian broadcasters can now  benefit from a complete end-to-end integration for both on-premise and cloud-based workflows that cover the entire functionality required by a modern software-based media enterprise.

“It is now possible to route an almost unlimited number of signals from anywhere to anywhere in the world,” said de Bressac, adding that GV can offer customers an assured path to the future of media and entertainment — and confidently to produce and deliver more compelling live content.

Opposite GV’s booth was Ideal Systems with a huge poster proclaiming the arrival of NDI pointing to Alice, an innovative integration framework that is being offered as a PaaS (Platform as a service) for media operators embracing the cloud.

Fintan McKiernan, CEO at Ideal Systems SEA, when asked to comment on Ideal forming a new strategic alliance with Comcast Technology Solutions (CTS), said: “We are very proud to offer CTS’s industry-leading portfolio of solutions to help customers both simplify and scale their video efforts across APAC.

“Companies today want more efficient and flexible ways to deliver multi-screen, cloud-based video to viewers, and this new strategic relationship with CTS is aimed at meeting this growing demand.”

CTS, a division of Comcast Cable that provides media and entertainment technology to content providers, operators, and advertisers, is renowned globally for powering video entertainment services for leading broadcasters, programmers, service providers, and brands. 

McKiernan added: ”Under the new agreement, Ideal Systems will serve as a strategic reseller of Comcast Technology Solutions’ portfolio of products and services.”

Specifically, Ideal will now offer companies throughout APAC with access to CTS’s Cloud TV Suite, Direct-to-Consumer Suite, Live Linear Suite and VideoAI.

Indeed, there was a constant stream of visitors to the booth to discuss a number of hot button topics such as NDI and cloud solutions.

NDI has become a hot topic as it is a leading standard for video-over-IP; it has grown at an exponential rate over the last two years, helping broadcasters and production companies overcome the difficulties encountered during Covid-19 with new efficient ways to do video production.

The company had a number of NDI system designs and use case studies, projects already built and delivered, details of which visitors were keen to know. “We are delighted to bring together some of our NDI partners at BroadcastAsia to showcase their technology and our solutions,” said McKiernan.

“We have brought in experts and equipment from BirdDog, SimplyLive, Telescript, KILOVIEW, NETGEAR, NewTek, SWIT, TAG and AJA to our booth so we can gainfully discuss the benefits, flexibility, and possibilities of NDI with our customers and walked-in clients.

Indeed, some clients stayed on after 5.30pm at the booth to have some cold Tiger beers after quenching their thirst for knowledge on NDI production solutions.

Over at CommunicAsia, Irdeto, the world leader in digital platform cybersecurity, announced the launch of Irdeto RDK Hybrid Stack, a multi-platform hybrid satellite RDK video accelerator.

With the launch, Irdeto now offers pay-TV operators the choice of the industry’s two leading platforms to support their super aggregator strategy — Android TV and RDK-V.

Super aggregators arising

With premium content going D2C (direct to consumers), there’s a new trend arising — the Age of Super Aggregators. Keen competition among pay-TV operators is driving them towards pure over-the-top (OTT) and/or hybrid services. And highly secured premium apps are becoming the key to drive users toward OTT operators evolving to become super aggregators.

To learn more about the implications of the trend, APB+ sat down for a chat with Irdeto’s Dario Choi, Regional Vice-President, APAC; Bruce Curtin, Product Director; and Mark Prior, Product Manager, Dynamic Ad Insertion.

According to Choi, many operators are leveraging on open-source, license-free platforms to deploy their next-generation hybrid video platforms; and the most popular open-source platforms today are Android TV (supported by Google) and RDK-Video (supported by Comcast).

Both provide operators with a fast-track to become super aggregators, offering access to attractive third-party app stores capable to aggregate the operators’ own content together with premium sports, premium studios’ content and premium apps.

However, accessing third-party apps brings potential danger. Take Kodi as an example, a legitimate app in the Google Play Store that is often misused to stream pirate content. Around the world, 40 million people currently use Kodi, and nearly 70% of Kodi users are pirates according to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

To prevent this worst-case scenario from happening, Choi and his colleagues advised that operators must have the ability to monitor app usage and control app-based piracy if one is to deploy Android TV with confidence.

Choi said, “Building on over 50 years of expertise in security, Irdeto’s services and solutions protect revenue, enable growth and fight cybercrime in video entertainment and video games.

“We’re here to deliver peace of mind with our App Watch and other innovations to our customers enabling them to focus on delighting their audience with the best viewing experiences.

Bruce Curtin explained: “While the open App stores give operators instant access to apps from top OTT services like Netflix, YouTube and Disney+ alongside their own premium content, the downside is that they also offer the subscriber access to thousands of potentially problematic apps and plug-ins which may offer pirated content or even contain malicious software.

“This exposes both the subscriber and the operator to a range of new risk scenarios, for example phishing, sideloaded playlists and apps, DDoS and data snooping!

“This is why it is crucial for operators to retain control of their viewers’ usage on third-party App stores.

“This is why operators should take a look at Irdeto’s App Watch service that can detect all Kodi-like apps in the Play Store and crawls for app add-ons, streaming sites and content sources to identify pirate activities on your STBs.” 

He said that running App Watch on the set-top box for monitoring app usage is lightweight and has no performance impact on the viewing experience.

“App Watch ensures that security is applied without adversely affecting the user experience,” said Curtin, adding that pirate Kodi add-ons can be disabled or blocked while the Kodi app remains available to consumers.

Mark Prior shared that being a super aggregator allows one to collect data and analytics across apps and platforms and this can create new business opportunities through customisation and recommendation of ads to suit individual viewers — addressable ads is the name of the game.

Choi said: “If any pay-TV operator in Asia-Pacific is planning to launch a hybrid satellite solution, Irdeto can offer pre-integrated, pre-tested and pre-certified security and support for deploying an OTT or hybrid satellite RDK-V based service.”

And in addition, Irdeto has developed Irdeto Certified Secure Experience (ICSE), a service designed for pay-TV operators to certify the security and integrity of their OTT and hybrid platforms, thereby fast tracking and securing access to Premium Apps such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime. 

The critical aspect of ICSE is to ensure pay-TV operators are well positioned to add Premium Apps to their platform on or even after launch — and become super aggregators.

• More BroadcastAsia 2022 reports next week.

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