Arab HDTV and Beyond Group discusses implications of latest broadcast technologies and state of HDTV transition in the Arab world.
The Arab HDTV and Beyond group concluded its 14th annual meeting in October under the patronage of Eng Abdelrahim Suleiman, Director General of the Arab States Broadcasting Union (ASBU) held in hybrid mode at Conrad Hotel in Dubai with live streaming via Zoom.
The meeting was headed by Hasan R Sayed Hasan, Chairman of the Arab HDTV and Beyond Group, and the Group Vice-Chairs Dr Fares Lubbadeh and Eng. Abdulla Al-Balooshi. The meeting brought together 50 professionals to discuss pressing issues in the HDTV segment.
Underlining the rapid growth HDTV has seen since its beginnings in the region, Hasan said: “HDTV in the Arab world has been still growing, and this has accelerated over the last year. Since its beginnings in the region in 2009, HDTV channels on regional satellites have grown to 451 channels at the end of September 2021. Although many productions are being shot or produced in 4K, Ultra HD has not yet taken off in the Arab world, at least in broadcasting or distribution. On the global level, Ultra HD services, both linear and VOD, are growing, with a total number of 212 commercial services globally in October 2021 (five of these services are in 8K).”
Bassil Zoubi, Director of Technology and Development, ASBU briefed the members about the outcome of the Technology and Development Workshop that was part of the Arab Media Congress, which was held in Tunisia in October 2021.
Thomas Gunkel, Market Director, Broadcast, Skyline Communications described a new model of distributed media operations based on the Virtual Desks model. With this model, a user can log in from anywhere and automatically get a customised control surface for the task they need to accomplish at present. A virtual desk can be connected to physical equipment. Virtual desks are built dynamically for each event based on selected resources, signals, and media assets. They can help users manage complex environments, work from anywhere, and integrate with collaboration tools.
Ines Gdoura Jebali, Head of Production Technology & New Media, ASBU elaborated in describing the continuous training required in media production and broadcasting. She explained the current situation with users/system administrators is that Broadcast and IT still work in silos, there is a limited number of IT users and administrators in TV and radio stations, and training is usually product- or solution-based. To adapt to new IP technologies, new skillsets and actions are required. Training should begin as soon as possible on various technical standards, protocols, and aspects of IP. Training needs to be both basic and advanced, and different collaboration models should exist in the industry.
Broadcast & TV Production Director for the UAE Pro League Ammar Hina explained the broadcast and media department aims to improve the broadcast output, maximise exposure, and increase revenue streams by controlling production from start to finish, creating languages for output, improving venues, and implementing new technologies.
Speaking about the effect of the pandemic causing, Ammar mentioned that this led to finding alternative content, gaming, social media campaigns, and resulted in lots of challenges. He wrapped up his presentation with figures about the TV Audience in 2014/ 2015 being 3.5m whereas in 2020/2021 it is 17.7m, while the digital streaming audience is 39.2m, TV and news audience is 143.4m.
According to Christoph Haslauer, CEO of NativeWaves, the next-level of fan engagement is hard due to the challenges of differentiation for broadcasters and OTT providers, caused by factors such as viewer fatigue, disengagement, and revenue erosion. He also gave examples on fan engagement from the venue, on a mobile device, or at home, explaining that real-time engagement drives commerce in many ways such as betting, user polls, shopping, ads and sponsorships, gamifications and others.
Nicolas Hans, Partner – Broadcast Solutions ME, stated that strong AI has yet to become a reality and is based on Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP). On the other hand, Narrow AI drives automation and data-processing tasks and is born in the cloud and driven by data science. He mentioned that newsrooms are already adopting AI and discussed its potential uses in such environments, saying that it is utilized to improve business efficiency, to deliver more relevant content to users, and mostly to make journalists’ work more efficient. Additionally, Nicholas presented a case study on Broadcast Solutions ME’s contribution to Expo 2020, which discussed the challenges of producing and distributing shareable content to earn media, and proposed a solution that combines on-premises production with cloud indexing and distribution.
The final presentation was on the latest developments of MENOS+ services delivered by Awad Eid, Head of Multimedia Exchange Networks, ASBU where he talked about the technical aspects and latest developments of ASBU’s MENOS+ platform and displayed statistical data on ASBU DTV Channels. Awad also demonstrated the service and profile of MENOS and the ASBU cloud-based Platform for Exchange and Remote Production. He stated that cyber security is a challenge which might be mitigated using two-way authentication to avoid cyber-attacks.