NAB 2018: Sports, elections and DTT drive most broadcast investments in Latin America

The Las Vegas 2018 NAB Show arrives with great expectations among the broadcast industry worldwide, and especially in Latin America, where the largest TV networks are seeking the best alternatives available to invest in systems upgrade, 4K production and, in some cases, even 4K transmission.

Their top priority is to search for solutions that will improve the efficiency of their operations, highlighting the management of integrated and centralized systems. IP arises as the big issue, together with systems that will secure the greatest possible automation of processes and archive management.

There are three big drivers of investments among the main broadcasters in the region: the FIFA Soccer World Cup, presidential elections in several Latin American countries, and the development of Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) and the analog switch-off.

Investment drivers
The 2018 World Cup, to be held in Russia from June 14th to July 15th, is a great driver for acquisition of technologies for remote content production and its multiscreen delivery. In some cases it will imply testing transmission in this format, since production in 4K has been already widely achieved.

The large TV networks in Latin America, and mainly those with the FIFA broadcasting rights, have been getting ready for two years to be aligned with the official transmission and expand media coverage of everything that surrounds the sporting event.

In this sense, the increasing complexity of IP processes will allow the remote control of devices, including camcorders, title generators, audio and playout, proving an important evolution from Brazil’s World Cup 2014 to Russia 2018. Everything points to the increasing centralization of processes, production systems and broadcast.

The presidential elections taking place this year in Latin America will be another driver for investments and purchase of technology at this NAB Show. Brazil and Mexico, the largest markets in the region, will hold presidential elections in October and July, respectively, same as Colombia, the fourth economy in the region, which is having its own in May. Venezuela is supposed to call for elections in May, and Paraguay is having presidential elections in May too.

In this context, technology for live outdoor broadcast transmission through Internet 4G LTE gains relevance, as well as the use of cellular bonding at mobile news units, cable network connections, Wi-fi, microwave and satellite in order to broadcast live from different locations. IP is back under the spotlight, but it is also the search for new resources to convey the signal, among them the acquisition of drones to capture aerial images and many others.

Digital Terrestrial Television development

The deployment of DTT in many countries of Latin America is another big driver for investment this year, being Mexico the only nation that has already completed its process in December 31st 2015. Costa Rica was to be the next, but its Government decided to postpone the switch-off date because the required minimum coverage of receivers at households hasn’t been achieved, causing a large percentage of population to lose free TV. So, 2019 is the new date, the same as in Colombia and Argentina.

Brazil is advancing with the Japanese standard ISDB with certain local alterations, as agreed by its official timeline, with the analog switch-off set for its largest cities by December 2018. The latest city ending with analog signals has been Porto Alegre, the capital of Río Grande do Sul state. Eight million of DTT kits have been already given away by the Government and 4.5 million will be delivered this year. In the rest of the country, analog emissions will be shut down by 2023.

Chile, applying the ISDB-Tb Japanese-Brazilian standard, with includes certain capabilities such as mobility and portability, forecasts its switch-off by April 2020. The Chilean FTA networks are getting ahead of the event, investing the upgrade of their systems: Canal 13 has already completed digitalization of all the regional capital cities and achieved 80% coverage; this year it will continue with the rest of the country.

In Paraguay, the analog switch-off is expected to happen by 2020. DTT spectrum has already been assigned to pre-existing networks and two new open TV channels have been licensed and are ready to be released.

Bolivia, also with the Japanese-Brazilian standard, has already 12 networks broadcasting digital simultaneously with analog broadcast, with the first phase of the process scheduled for November 2019 at the core cities. The process will be completed by 2024 if everything happens as plan.

More efficient systems
Each year, the digital file management systems turn more complex, developing new capabilities and increasing its efficiency. MAM systems are becoming more centralized allowing multimedia management that unifies the use of all servers.

Technical and Operations managers of TV networks and producer companies in Latin America are always looking for better software to automate the different workflows, and get the most of their IT-based digital systems. This way, costs are slashed and all the stored content is easily available for new production, while keeping control of its own content by the addition of watermarks. Moreover, it allows collaboration among all the work areas involved.

Thus, “integration” appears as the key concept required by all the companies. To improve the efficiency of their operations, broadcasters are looking for video servers capable of integrate seamlessly to the pre-existent production systems.

Multiscreen Delivery
During the last years, the distribution of multiplatform content has been a topic of growing interest for television networks that produce their content and must make them available for all types of screes.

This is not new, the search for online production and distribution tools to strengthen digital platforms is constantly increasing. The requirements of more sophisticated processes lead technology providers to develop complex tools that respond to the new issues, such as cybersecurity of digital content.

Production and Delivery
Production of content in 4K is not new and many broadcasters in the region are already generating most of their stock by this standard. This boosts the search of production workflows technologies associated for capture, production and postproduction.

Along with this, some networks are already investigating and searching for solutions that allow them to think about broadcasting 4K. Such is the case of Telefe, one of the main TV networks in Argentina that has unveiled its plans on this issue, which is big news for open TV.

Regarding postproduction, companies are investing in systems for live graphic generation and enhanced screen graphs. Evolution in this field is wide and moves toward increasing live interactivity, under software environments and standard IT technologies, as well as virtualized servers.

Respecting television studios, the great market trend is LED lighting especially for networks opening new facilities that are fitted with 100% LED beams. Their significant energy saving, both at the illumination and the refrigeration systems, result in cost savings that are driving companies to invest in replacement of tungsten lights.

New standard for IP environment
The elaboration of the new SMPTE ST 2110 set of rules by the Society of Motion Pictures and Television Engineers (SMPTE) is good news for broadcasters worldwide. This news convention specifies transport, sync and description of different elemental flows among professional Internet Protocol (IP) networks in real time with live production purposes, playout and other applications for professional media.

Standardization of SMPTE ST 2110 documents gives broadcasters, producers and technology providers for media the tools they need to meet these requirements while working in the IP environment. Now, interface traffic may be totally IP, trusting in a common datacenter infrastructure instead of two separate facilities for switching/routing SDI and IP.

The existence of a unifying standard is essential for the companies migrating their infrastructures to IP. Currently, progress is being made in interoperability tests to ensure a gradual transition to IP workflows and many providers are supporting this initiative. Achieving interoperability among critical providers will allow broadcasters to incorporate the new IP workflows in a transparently way. Technology managers will be looking closely at this issue at NAB 2018 to decide whether they will fully engage in this technology or not.

By Magdalena Russo