BVE, the UK’s largest media and tech event, happened this week and MTM was present in force. We moderated a bunch of panels, exploring the mainstream opportunity of eSports, the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) in the broadcast industry, and the commercial viability of virtual reality. See below for our summary and takeaways:

1. Ready to launch – eSports goes mainstream

eSports is already a global phenomenon – competitive video games leagues and tournaments attracted an audience of over 380m people in 2017, generating almost $700m from media rights, advertising, sponsorship, merchandise, ticket sales and games publisher fees. By 2020, revenues are expected to grow to over $1.5bn.

The eSports audience is large, but spread widely across the globe. It is hugely established in Asian markets like China and South Korea, with sizeable fanbases in Australia, Germany and the USA. The UK lags behind, with approximately 7% of the adult population having seen eSports in the past.

The panel saw this situation changing dramatically over the next few years, as the amount of premium content in the market grows; competitions for traditional sports video games (like FIFA and motorsports) gain traction; and major broadcasters increasingly understand which formats and genres chime with their audiences.

2. Artificial Intelligence tags in

Our next panel explored the potential industry gains from Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). Put simply, AI systems are intelligent computer programmes that can sift through large volumes of data, programming rules for using this data, and reasoning to sophisticated conclusions; with ML leading to these intelligence systems self-learning and auto-correcting mistakes without being programmed to.

Due to the automation capabilities AI and ML provide, the panel agreed immediate applications include reducing workloads, improving efficiency, cost reduction and resourcing issues. As new technology enables organisations to take less costly risks, the panel agreed broadcasters and content owners could adopt AI and ML systems to improve targeting and recommendations.

The panel was most excited about the use of AI and ML in content management; for example content classification and tagging due to advances in image, emotion and speech recognition. This would result in the increased possibility of archive monetisation. The panel provided examples including the Australian National Rugby League adopting artificial intelligence to categorise their catalogue, and even some eye-catching AI adoption, underpinned by facial recognition technology, by Endemol in the Big Brother house.

3. VR viability: can it sell?

2016 was seen by many as the revolutionary year for VR – for the first time ever consumers were able to buy a range of mobile and premium VR headsets from the likes of Samsung, Google, HTC and Facebook-owned Oculus. Two years later, however, it can be hard to see the lasting impacts of this revolution. Headset adoption has grown, but only to around 5% of UK households. While there is plenty of high-quality content being made, there has not yet been a “must-have” app or content title.

The panel agreed that VR is still likely to have its “iPhone moment” – becoming a staple item in many living rooms across the UK. For this to happen though, several challenges still need to be overcome. Upcoming mid-range standalone headsets like Oculus Go are expected to mitigate problems with performance and discovery; the continued roll out of fibre and 5G networks is expected to fix problems of latency and download requirements; and increased spending on content, marketing and technology partnerships, by major content producers such as Sky and Netflix, is expected to drive consumer awareness and take up.

The panel’s bottom line was this: commercial opportunities are coming for VR, and the organisations that will benefit most from them are those which start experimenting early.


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