Streaming Forum Gets Smarter, Focuses on AI and Machine Learning

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At the 2017 CES in Las Vegas, the most impressive—or at least most intimidating—display was Amazon’s giant Echo speaker-shaped meeting room. Far away from the aisles of TVs, iPhone cases, and Bluetooth speakers that cluttered the Las Vegas Convention Center, the 12-foot-tall cylinder dominated the hallway outside the exhibit hall dedicated to C Space, the part of CES dedicated to “creative communications, brand marketing, advertising, digital publishing, social networking, and entertainment.”

In other words, the place to go to see the future of media and content. And if Amazon’s Echo—the central feature of which is Alexa, the company’s digital personal assistant—dominated C Space, the artificial intelligence (AI) that makes Alexa (and Siri and Cortana) possible has dominated discussions about the future of over-the-top (OTT) video ever since. AI and machine learning are changing the way video is created and consumed. From camera tracking and graphics to analytics and recommendation to monitoring social media sentiment, no segment of the video creation and delivery chain is untouched, and that’s as thrilling (and, some would argue, scary) as stepping into a giant Echo in Vegas.

The spotlight has been shone on the scary side recently, with a slew of articles like “Something Is Wrong on the Internet” highlighting how YouTube’s algorithms push kids from harmless nursery rhyme videos to clips showing popular characters like Peppa Pig in disturbing scenarios. It’s the logical extension of the “you may also like” recommendations found on every OTT service, but the fact that it’s targeted at toddlers and accelerated by autoplay should make all of us reckon with how computers are dictating what we see and hear.

Of course, AI and machine learning aren’t inherently nefarious, and forward-thinking creatives and technologists are using those technologies to build better products and services in every field, from healthcare to manufacturing, and OTT is no exception. That’s why we’ve chosen to highlight AI, machine learning, and neural networks and their impact on online video at the 2018 Streaming Forum in London, where we’ll focus on “building smarter OTT services.”

We’re putting together a programme that offers insights into all the ways AI is impacting OTT—helping publishers maximise their QoS and QoE by deploying AI-based analytics in the network, increase their revenue by microtargeting advertising, decrease customer churn by making sure viewers receive a steady stream of content they love, and delight consumers by tailoring user interfaces for specific devices and types of content.

Not every session at Streaming Forum will address AI, because machines and networks are (for now, at least) only as smart as the people who design them. We’ve got one of the smartest people in the OTT business, Sky’s principal streaming architect Jeff Webb, kicking things off with a keynote called “Streaming in the Land of Containers.” Webb will offer a look inside Sky’s live-streaming platform, which is moving toward a containerised, microservices architecture that he says features self-healing capability and end-to-end automation. The 2018 rollout of the OTT version of Sky Q is one of the most anticipated developments in streaming video, and Webb’s talk will offer a rare chance to look under the bonnet of an OTT service at (or near) launch.

You can also expect sessions that will help you get smarter about encoding and transcoding, VR and 360° video, delivery and distribution, content protection and DRM, and live event and live linear streaming. Find out more about the 2018 Streaming Forum, which will be held alongside BVE at London’s ExCel on 27 February, at

[This article appears in the Winter 2017 issue of Streaming Media Magazine as "Streaming Forum Gets Smarter."]

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