This year’s IBC event lacked a big, overarching theme, or new “wow” topic to get journalists, analysts and market-watchers foaming at the mouth. And that’s no bad thing. It’s the sign of a maturing industry, and as a result, the show retained a healthy focus on improving existing products and trying to get the big things – multiscreen, OTT, hybrid – right. Nevertheless, there was plenty on show that highlighted that the market remains miles away from anything resembling certainty.

HEVC is here, sort of
Encoding ain’t sexy, but it provided arguably the biggest new development of the show. The arrival of HEVC, or H.265, promises to be a genuine game changer, and vendors were showing off their capabilities in force, even though the standard is not yet fully ratified, and few were able to actually show live demos. Most vendors stuck to the well-aired strapline that HEVC will provide a 50% reduction in bandwidth for comparable picture quality to AVC/H.264. But Elemental – also one of the only companies that provided a live demo rather than a video – also showed the improvements in picture quality that operators could achieve if they did not try and reduce bandwidth. Which begs an intriguing question: who will use HEVC to reward their consumers, by offering much better picture quality for the same bitrate, and who will reward themselves, by offering the same quality for less resources?

Horizon is here, definitely
No “sort of” caveat with UPC’s near-mythical Horizon set-top box, which after significant delays has now officially launched in the Netherlands, with Switzerland and Germany to follow in the coming months.  The verdict?

Horizon was worth the wait. It may be several years late, but it’s a product that looks like it belongs in 2012 and not 2010. The user interface is very appealing (“swooshy” being the adjective used most often to describe it), if perhaps suffering from overkill and over-complication in places, and it manages to offer a huge array of features, while not detracting from the quality of experience of those who just want to watch TV. Sky recently claimed that consumers are ahead of them in terms of expectation; with Horizon, it is arguably the other way around. Whether this is a good thing for operators or not is another matter.

By Giles Cottle, Senior Analyst, Informa Telecoms & Media
September 11, 2012

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