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6 January 2022

Faultline goes green (and a little mean) with 2022 predictions

It is that time of year again when everyone who is anyone wants to push their unsolicited predictions for the year ahead straight down your throat. If you’ve had your fill, then stop reading now, but remember that most are either wrong or too obvious to be wrong, while almost all have an underlying agenda, and some are just downright silly.

Bereft of bias, Faultline has been in the predictions game long enough to spot a phony forecast or two. Haters might say that we have an ulterior motive too, to sell subscriptions, which is true, but you would probably be surprised how many of our own regularly have feathers ruffled by these very pages.

Before we consult our own crystal ball, a fitting place to start is with a Faultline favorite, content recommendations royalty ThinkAnalytics. The UK firm’s CTO and founder, Peter Docherty, is back with his annual rundown of predictions for the year ahead. Shockingly, these are usually pretty close to the money, as someone not just long in the tooth but at the forefront of TV data science, which just so happens to be a hot subject on a lot of 2022 prediction hitlists.

One Docherty projection for the year ahead is that personalized tile promotions within content recommendations carousels will unlock new revenues, in turn providing video service providers with additional ad revenue streams. We see this prediction aligning with the internal battle for UI space that is increasingly confounding video platforms and UX developers alike. A possible caveat, however, is that sponsored tiles showing short trailers could clutter the UX further to the detriment of user satisfaction, which is a difficult balancing act.

As for data, Docherty believes 2022 will see so-called stagnant data (like surveys) usurped by dynamic data streams from a blend of devices, platforms, metadata and consumer behavior – resulting in rapid decision-making and onto apparent “hyper-personalization”. This is a slightly fluffy prediction, although Docherty appears confident in one existing customer of the Think360 cloud-based learning platform, integrating the technology into its TV stack to build data-led businesses for testing and modification of the UX in “super-quick time” (whatever that means). So, we’ll just have to wait patiently for that case study to come out and follow-up in due course.

Moving on, this is quite a leap from data analytics and content discovery, but one of Faultline’s first feelings for 2022 is that LCEVC, the MPEG-5 Part-2 low complexity enhancement video codec, will secure its first major license this year. We have been scrupulously monitoring V-Nova and the moving parts of MPEG since the technology was standardized, while some finishing touches have been added following our correct prediction that 2021 would be a slow burner for LCEVC.

Later in the year, instinct suggested LCEVC would be recruited for an Italian rescue mission following the DAZN Serie A streaming debacle. This didn’t pan out, with DAZN opting for multicast ABR technology instead (in turn a good omen for mABR technology for 2022), although we believe LCEVC will bounce back this year. Such is the nature of LCEVC’s licensing structure, that once demand comes from up top – from operators, broadcasters, media companies etc. – that a domino effect will be triggered, as technology vendors rush to support the standard to secure new business.

Whether or not V-Nova will talk about this publicly or not, when (not if) it happens, is another matter.

Sticking with video compression just for a moment, every year we see artificial intelligence thrown around too loosely for anyone’s liking (which is not exclusive to the encoding industry) and, unfortunately, 2022 is probably going to be no different. However, what we predict is that AI-based tools will find homes within next-gen codecs, as well as increasing the efficiency of established codecs, without the caveat of massively increasing the computational complexity of video compression to the detriment of bitrate or distortion.

Another technology worth mentioning here, which we covered in much greater detail before the festive break, is that RDK could be set to blow up in 2022 following the release of Netflix’s Da Vinci initiative. Much like Hailstorm, its older Android TV Operator Tier equivalent, Da Vinci is designed to reduce engineering efforts required for Netflix app integrations on RDK.

This involves close work with SoC makers to eliminate software fragmentation by supplying ODMs with baseline software and hardware verified by the RDK Video Accelerator program. Based on the success of Hailstorm, this may seem like a safe prediction on our part, but those with short memories will forget the fierce resistance faced by Android TV, particularly in North America. Now, it’s RDK’s turn, with rising interest from operators, including the big-budget players with existing Android TV deployments.

Another bet leaning on the safe side is that 2022 will be the year when tier 1 operators start committing to shifting 100% of content processing workloads to the cloud. We’re not necessarily saying operators will achieve this by the end of the year, but we look to Sky as one leading the charge here, having recently committed to going from 50% cloud processing to 100% by the end of 2022. Further down the line, the vast majority of production will be handled in the cloud too, with Sky targeting the end of 2024 for this feat.

While this brings opportunities for vendors, this is a warning that operators like Sky are sticklers for products built to be cloud-native, with open APIs and a certain level of interoperability. Anything else just won’t cut the mustard.

This aligns with pledges for greener technologies from (almost) all corners of the media and entertainment ecosystem, which is another area set to steam ahead this year. From the operator and broadcaster perspective, these companies want to be able to spin productions up and down on demand, reducing costs and carbon footprints, but at the same time reducing their reliance on in-house technologies – opening up opportunities for the vendor community.

Running with the climate emergency message, we recall an announcement from the COP26 Summit back in November 2021, which saw twelve big UK broadcast names sign a commitment to educate their viewers on climate change. Faultline lambasted this Content Climate Change Pledge for shifting responsibility from their own organizations to the viewing public. Our hopeful environmental prediction for 2022 is that we will see more businesses stand up and take actual measures to reduce their environmental impact, instead of employing dirty deflective tactics.

Sliding over to the anti-piracy sector, we are seeing more diverse toolboxes delivered as-a-service, with monitoring and detection techniques becoming more flexible to be tailored around a client’s unique piracy needs. The switch to a pay-per-use watermarking model by French supplier Viaccess-Orca was a standout security story of 2021, embedding its software-based forensic watermarking technology into encoders from Ateme. This year could see others follow suit.

Speaking of France, there was a notable law change last year that finally granted rights holders and broadcasters the ability to obtain legal injunctions required to take down pirate services, without jumping through costly and timely hoops. The anti-piracy sector will benefit from more business here as the industry moves in the right direction.

Similarly, there is a significant sea change happening with addressable advertising in Europe. Again, France has made belated changes to allow operators to offer targeted ads, while just this week in Germany an important step forward was made, as a court ruled that regional advertising is now legally permitted on national TV channels for the first time. It comes following a dispute between an Austrian retail brand, which wanted to target its ad campaign to ProSieben channel viewers only in the Bavaria region of the country.

Against this background, we see an abundance of opportunities around addressable advertising for the year ahead as privacy laws adapt for the better and data management platforms advance.

It’s impossible to mention privacy without casting a quick eye over to the US. For years, US technology companies have gushed over Europe’s GDPR privacy regulations, with some predicting that a copycat could arrive as soon as this year, although this is one projection we are less confident in committing to.

Looking back on Faultline’s prediction piece from a year ago, we got a lot of things right. However, holding our hands up, there was one gamble we missed by an absolute country mile, which was that 2021 would be the year that Synamedia’s new (at the time) CEO, Paul Segre, would finally come out of the shadows and grace Faultline with a face-to-face video call. Should 2022’s brick and mortar events schedule go as planned, he will have fewer places to hide.

Finally, we fought off a niggling urge to file this copy without a single metaverse mention, based on past hype bubble disasters in the likes of AR/VR (we’re looking at you, Magic Leap), yet we have seldom seen single buzzwords inflated at such frightening pace. While not a new concept (people have been writing about metaverse ideas for decades), our industry only seriously picked up on the metaverse hysteria a few months ago, starting around September 2021, ahead of Mark Zuckerberg’s comments and Facebook’s eventual rebrand to Meta.

What started out as a PR stunt quickly made people stop and think. Meta has initially fronted $50 million to create the groundwork of virtual spaces within Meta’s debut metaverse. Zuckerberg doesn’t get credit for much, but at least he has provided a realistic timeframe of a decade for the metaverse as he sees it to become a reality – which is exactly why the M word shouldn’t be anywhere near anyone’s 2022 predictions.