Edvin Torgersen 12. apr 2016
BERGEN, Norway ― 12 April 2016
Published by FKT
The imminent demise of traditional linear TV has been predicted for some time – but it is still very much with us. Yes, its ultimate decline is inevitable – but it’s not going to happen as quickly as has been forecast. “Old school” TV still has plenty of miles left in the tank, especially if it can ensure it retains as much of its appeal as possible in a new world of time-shifted, go-anywhere, interactive entertainment.
That’s a challenge that started to preoccupy us at Sixty around a decade ago. And: we thought we knew the answer. We saw a future where linear TV could embrace the interactivity that consumers don’t just like – they expect it. More than that: they’re looking for entertainment experiences that are unique to them. The problem was, in hindsight, that our ideas were before their time: they needed significantly more powerful technology than we had ten years ago.
Now, however, we have what we need – and our idea, which we call Ease Live, has become a reality. We knew that anything we might develop would need to have certain vital characteristics.
It needed to be easy to use – and that includes easy to implement with no disruption to existing production workflows. It had to be flexible – capable of working in any studio environment. It had to be something producers would feel comfortable with – but it wouldn’t add to their workload. It had to add zero headcount. And last but not least, it needed to pay for itself in terms of increased consumer engagement and loyalty – and deliver monetization opportunities.
A tall order? Yes indeed. We know that many have tried – and many have failed. Our belief is that it’s our unique mixture of talents that has helped us crack the problem, with our mixture of broadcast professionals and programmers.
So: what is Ease Live? Simply: it integrates with existing broadcast graphics systems – we have already announced integration with Vizrt’s Viz Artist, Viz Trio and Ross Video’s Xpression and DashBoard systems, but integration with any graphics environment (and even any mixed graphics environment) is straightforward – and enables interactive, clickable on-air graphics for tablets and other smart devices. Those graphics can, for example, be added-value information about the event being watched, or they can be advertising or promotional items. Notably, these can be targeted at, and tailored to, individual users according to the profile information they’ve provided: Ease Live is built on top of the app that the consumer uses to log in to the service.
How it works
How does it work? That’s the clever part. In any broadcast environment, there are typically two video feeds – a “clean” one, which is pure video, and a “dirty” one which sees the video overlaid with graphics. The clean feed is sent directly to the client devices, and Ease Live takes over responsibility for rendering the graphics in parallel on top of the feed. This enables the interactivity of the graphics. Those can be ‘regular’ bottom third graphics, for example – or they can be clickable by the consumer, providing in-line opportunities to personalise the experience. Viewers can quickly customise their own live event with endless graphical options, and enjoy multiple layers of graphics including instant game updates, replays, highlights, social media feeds and more.
Now, for example, a single click can achieve what might otherwise take a detour to a web site or a phone call to accomplish – placing a bet, for example, or even ordering a pizza. Importantly, that consumer remains with the broadcast and is not deflected to an alternative screen – and, because Ease Live doesn’t rely on a browser, ad-blocking is not an issue.
Of note is the fact that, whatever the quality/bandwidth of the connection, Ease Live’s dual feed ensures that the graphics are always crystal clear. The use of time codes for video/graphics synchronisation also ensures that the delays inherent in the network are irrelevant – as well as making the system incredibly robust. In the very unlikely event of failure, though, Ease Live can easily be switched in or out of the broadcast as desired by the producer.
In summary: Ease Live unifies traditional broadcast graphics, providing rich and compelling entertainment by enabling consumers to interact directly with on-air graphics to enhance their viewing experience.
The technology we needed all those years ago has caught up with us. Today’s smart devices routinely feature a graphics rendering capability that was all but unthinkable way back when we first had our idea. But technology doesn’t stand still, and we see plenty of opportunities with new technologies to implement facilities such as real time tracking. As always: the art will be to continue to combine our broad expertise with multiple leading edge technologies that will allow us to bring new relevance and opportunity to the world of linear television.
It needed to be easy to use – and that includes easy to implement with no disruption to existing production workflows.