A TV network for the digital age
The way in which TV and video content is consumed by viewers is continuing to evolve. End users expect improvements in quality, flexibility and interactivity, driven by services from large multinational content providers. These dynamics are driving more TV and video content to be watched via internet networks. Almost all on-demand content is delivered in this way, but an increasing amount of ‘linear’ content (including live events and other scheduled content) is also being watched over the internet.
Analysys Mason was recently commissioned by Ofcom to look at the technologies for distributing linear content over the internet. This work was wide ranging and incorporated the views of a broad range of stakeholders. We considered technical delivery models, commercial and value-chain implications, sustainability and energy consumption, and issues around the end-user experience. Across all of these aspects, we examined how they are affected by a potential move from existing TV delivery methods to delivery over the internet.
Today, most linear TV content is delivered via a digital terrestrial television (DTT) network. However, as viewers migrate their viewing time away from this platform (towards on-demand or scheduled content delivered over the internet) the utility of DTT will reduce, bringing the future of that network into question. There will come a point when the spectrum used by DTT could be put to more effective use elsewhere, and the DTT network will be switched off.
The exact date of DTT switch-off is uncertain. However, when it does happen this will potentially create a major challenge for those involved in the delivery of internet video content, including content delivery networks (CDNs) and internet service providers (ISPs). DTT is a very efficient way of allowing millions of households to watch the same content at the same time. Once DTT is switched off, that service will have to be provided by the internet networks. Even if most of the viewing time at that point involves on-demand content, scheduled content (such as live sports finals and other major public-interest events) will still have the potential to create new traffic peaks caused by a large number of concurrent viewers.
Our report for Ofcom investigates the implications of such a change for the way that TV and other scheduled video content is delivered, including the role of new ISP multicast services vs. conventional CDN-based delivery. While the point at which we lose the DTT network may be a way off, there are a range of technical, commercial, regulatory and policy issues that should be solved now, to make sure the internet networks are ready.
The report, commissioned by Ofcom, is available here.