The year 2016 is a major milestone for Crystal as the company celebrates a 30th anniversary.
Personally and professionally this milestone is a great source of pride. As I look back on the 30 years and working with some major broadcasters and satellite operators to improve operational efficiency, it is easy to see how dramatically the industry has evolved.
As I write this, Crystal is preparing for the “New” NAB Show New York, where this anniversary will be celebrated—in the company of amazing industry peers who have faithfully supported the firm over these last 30 years and who ultimately made this milestone possible.
This has been a positive year, for the industry and Crystal. The company is participating in some extremely exciting developments and innovation for video distribution technologies. Broadcasters have a wealth of opportunity to now reach more consumers across the globe than ever before, and satellite continues to have a key role to play in enabling that distribution model.
There are a number of new paths to the consumer today and the plan for Crystal is to continue to offer services to the companies leading the change.
The Evolution Of Video Distribution
Earlier this year, Crystal hosted a “Teleport of the Future” round-table discussion with the Society of Satellite Professionals International (SSPI). Joined by a panel of experts, which consisted of Encompass Chief Technical Officer, Alan Young; Intelsat’s Tom Johnson, who is Director of Teleport Operations at the satellite operator; and George Melton, Director of Engineering, Teleports for Turner Broadcasting, the discussions centered on the evolution of content distribution as well as the challenges faced by the industry. The entire event may be viewed at this link: crystalcc.com/landing-page/livestream/.
The overwhelming, and no doubt surprising to some, consensus was how content is now being distributed and ultimately consumed. The video/content distribution industry has evolved dramatically, and will continue to do so.
Analysts seem to be in agreement that OTT is definitely on the rise. According to Parks Associates, 63 percent of US broadband homes subscribe to OTT services. However, we have not seen the rampant cord cutting many expected; the expectation is that this will be a significant sea change to the community of content owners and distributors—according to GfK, a new trend is emerging, with many subscribers signing up for multiple OTT services.
Another realization from the event was that satellite still has an important, if not critical, present and future role to play in supporting hybrid networks.
Alan Young of Encompass commented, “Previously satellite was the only way of distributing video. Now, it is one of the ways. Satellite still has some really strong characteristics when it comes to distributing video, one of those being that it is extremely reliable. That is one of the main reasons why nearly all of the broadcasters in the US rely on C-band satellite. It is extremely efficient if you want to send the same content at the same time, everywhere.”
As the evolution continues, an even greater need for better monitoring will be evident. George Melton of Turner Broadcasting is an avid believer in reliable monitoring.
He added, “Part of being more efficient is that you don’t need as many personnel, as you have automated systems. We have tremendous monitoring tools, and there is zero tolerance for any types of outage. We all still operate in a world where five nines is not just the norm, but expected and very likely contracted in service level agreements.”
As the need for monitoring increases, Crystal will continue to advance products that will maintain the firm’s leadership role in monitoring, command and control solutions.
This year, Crystal received recognition for our industry contributions from the Broadband Technology Report (BTR). The company’s Network Monitoring Solution was selected as a high-scorer in the Diamond Technology Reviews (the Diamonds), which recognizes the top products and solutions available to cable industry professionals and companies.
The Role Of Metadata
A notable trend being in the distribution evolution is the expanded role of metadata. Consumers continue to demand increasing amounts of content on multiple platforms—providers are under pressure to localize that content. However, the most pertinent of these demands is the expectation of relevant and valuable content without having to search for that.
Metadata is the key to delivering this consumer-driven content, ensuring that content providers can deliver enriched, relevant, and valued content to customers. Using metadata, providers can now build a more comprehensive picture of someone’s viewing habits, preferences, and even likely shopping habits based on viewing history and a comparison to others with similar viewing habits.
The contextual content opportunity is only possible with the incorporation of metadata and the insertion into the content. Personalized content and advertisements can now be delivered to a unique consumer in the moment. Unless you live under a bridge or rock, there should be no surprise to anyone that more and more consumers are watching from their mobile devices; sending an individually tailored service to those viewers is even easier.
Metadata has been a hot topic this year, made even more so by the introduction of the updated SCTE-35 standard last year. There is still a certain amount of confusion within the industry as to what the standard means and how to adhere to that standard when applying metadata.
Many Crystal customers are finding the standards document difficult to interpret and even the equipment providers are having difficulty; as one of customer recently discovered as a piece of faulty equipment was trouble shot and analyzed.
Crystal already has a metadata solution in place to accommodate this growing requirement for customers. While a relatively new product for the company, there has been impressive interest and adoption from several customers and plans are already being formulated to expand the product suite. The good news for us that this is Crystal’s sweet spot; monitoring and controlling equipment is what we do.
Crystal was present at IBC again in 2016 with the firm’s exhibiting re-seller, Sematron. I was fortunate to be able to contribute at a session, Making Much More of Metadata, which was chaired by the European Broadcast Union’s (EBU)’s Jean-Pierre Evain and examined some novel ways in which metadata is being exploited.
My paper reviewed ways of looking to the broadcasters and content providers to lead new methods for use of metadata to deliver relevant and valuable content. Crystal also launched a metadata solution for local TV providers at IBC. The application addresses the growing need for local and smaller TV stations to make content available for streaming and Video on Demand (VoD) across multiple distribution networks.
2016 has been a highly successful year for Crystal, with steady growth and marked innovation. As the satellite and broadcast industries evolve, the company will continue to expand our product portfolio and innovations to assist our customers in maintaining and thriving through these industry changes.
The firm will also be looking for global reach expansion. Crystal is already partnered with re-sellers in the UK, Italy, Singapore, Brazil, and Australia—the company’s footprint will expand beyond those areas, as well.
The last 30 years have been interesting—the next 30 years are going to be extraordinary.
This Year in Review was recently published by SatNews. To view the full article and read closing thoughts on 2016 from other industry leaders, see SatMagazine Year in Review here: http://www.satmagazine.com/story.php?number=1057993435
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