AI at IBC 2023: The GenAI Is Out of the Bottle

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A few years ago, when the industry first began to take serious notice of AI, the technology was really an application of machine learning. The progression and development of the tools and apps since then has been phenomenal, which is why SMPTE president Renard T. Jenkins told the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC), that the M&E industry is only just starting on its journey through a decade of massive change.

Actually, industry experts expect the next 20 to 40 years of developments in media and entertainment to be dominated by conversations around this technology. It was certainly the pervasive trend at the IBC trade show permeating all corners of conference and show floor. Skeptics might point to 2023 as the zenith of the AI hype cycle and that like stereoscopic 3D, Virtual Reality, the metaverse, and Web3, AI will soon fade into background.

It doesn’t really look that way at this time, although discussions are now being framed with a little less hyperbole and a little less fear and more practical assessment of the ways this multi-faceted technology can be best introduced and managed across the value chain.  Media companies are beginning to explore Generative AI not to create entire new movies or shows, but to personalise content for users and improve the efficiency of media production.

There weren’t many AI cynics at IBC, with most execs choosing to emphasise the view that AI is but a tool, not a usurper of jobs.

AI's Intelligence Revolution

“Google is convinced that AI is one of most important inventions of the 21st Century,” said Dex Hunter-Torricke, Head of Global Communications & Marketing - Google Deepmind in a keynote.

Likening GenAI to the industrial revolution and the information revolution he said the transition to the “intelligence revolution” would enable a new wave of creativity.

“GenAI can have a huge impact on how we make content, access information and synthesise data for great insights,” he declared.  “AI essentially reduces the friction between accessing, sharing, and collaborating with information.”

Addressing the thorny issue of whether AI will replace humans in the workplace Hunter-Torricke countered that this view “undersells the value of people.” He said, “people naturally want to see more creativity from humans and AI will amplify and build on this. We will see a lot more content where AI plays a role, but humans are critical to the process by adding value.”

He said Google was looking decades ahead to the next level of AI or “artificial general intelligence … This is where AI advances to a much more sophisticated almost human level intelligence and tools that are vastly more powerful than today.”

Data Drives AI

In another session, Raghvender Arni, Director, Customer Acceleration Team at AWS posed one of the bigger questions for the creative industries. “Data is the oil that really pushes AI forward,” he said. “But once you’ve created the data, who owns the copyright for it?”

Amazon has been engaged in ML and AI for over two decades and its practical applicability in the media entertainment space is deemed very important to the business, perhaps because of all the cloud processing capability AI requires.

“There will not be one foundational model to rule them all,” said Samira Bakhtiar, Director of Global Media & Entertainment for AWS. “The ability to leverage APIs to access foundational models, as well as to leverage open-source solutions, is going to be paramount.”

“We want to ensure that your data is yours,” she added. “It’s protected. It’s proprietary. It’s your IP, you should be the one that has control over it.”

Quincy Olatunde, VP, Products, DTC at NBCU’s Peacock TV, agreed.  “Performance comes down to the quality of the data and how it is sourced,” he said. “Businesses should be aware of the potential risks they may expose themselves to, while ethical responsibility remains a big factor.”

Philippe Leonetti the boss of video security and management specialist Viaccess-Orca (VO) said it best. “Everyone can use ChatGPT. The point is how you apply it.”

Azure OpenAI and Firefly

At IBC, VO touted a partnership with Microsoft’s large-language model (LLM) Microsoft Azure OpenAI.  Leonetti continued, “To optimise AI performance you need data but having data or analytics or cloud is not sufficient. You have to know what you want to achieve, and you have to be expert at using it.”

In the last few weeks Adobe has released Firefly, a suite of AI models for GenAI, such as text to image, which are “ethically sourced” from the public domain or from data Adobe has the rights to exploit.

“We can assure creators that using Firefly is trained on high-quality content,” Kylee Peña, product marketing for Adobe told the IBC audience.

Adobe is also a founder of the Content Authenticity Initiative, a cross-industry community uniting in a standards approach to how AI is deployed. “The idea is to surface what is going on with an image, where it was trained, how it was altered to combat disinformation and increase transparency,” she said. “We’re seeing camera manufacturers joining us in this cause to protect the creative and give consumers all the information they need to make informed decisions.”

The company said it was also introducing “Do Not Train” credentials for artists to tag their content if they do not want it used by an AI bucket.

Automation and Personalisation

Lewis Smithingham, SVP of Innovation & Creative Solutions at Media.Monks, was among several speakers to emphasise the potential of AI to automate and personalise media. He described the state of AI right now as “the worst it will ever be,” but that AI would “be the death of monoculture” and birth new “microcultures and subcultures that allow people to personalise their content.”

Content would no longer be created and programmed based on demographics like age or location, he said, but on terms such as individual identity. “AI gives us the opportunity to create personalised content at scale,” he said.

Bakhtiar said that if organisations are looking to gain a competitive edge, they should think about how to leverage the vast quantity of data they have at their command to create “hyper-personalised, hyper-localised experiences.”

John Footen, MD of Media & Entertainment at Deloitte, also pointed to personalisation of content as something that will be of “dramatic importance” in future. “One of the roles of GenAI might be to create an avatar of yourself, so you can then ask that GenAI to show content to match your mood and social situation,” he said.

Avid’s CTO Kevin Riley urged the industry to embrace AI, much as his own firm has done in an extensive alliance with Microsoft.

AI for Creatives

“Don’t be afraid of this,” he said in yet another AI session at IBC. “The cloud was similarly viewed as a massive disruptor, but what has happened already is that there are a bunch of new jobs being created—and the same thing is going to happen with AI.” 

Anthony Guarino, EVP Global Production and Studio Technology at Paramount agreed. “It’s not about replacing existing creative processes but about putting AI tools in the hands of creators and allowing them to use the tools as they see fit for the job,” he said.

Accenture’s Global Communications and Media Lead Any Walker predicted that by 2026 all creatives would be using GenAI to enhance media workflows.  Across content creation and production, Generative AI can act as a “creative co-pilot,” Walker told the IBC Daily

“The technology can take distribution and commercialisation?to the next level, elevating how media companies can distribute content to wider, more targeted audiences, and manage and monetise assets more effectively,” he said. 

AI and Sports Customisation

In reality, much of the conversation about AI remains just that—talk (or hot air, if you like). One sector where it is making inroads as a practical solution is in helping producers and rights holders customise sports events.

Video transport systems provider LTN is already using the technology to make sports more appealing to younger generations, said Rick Young its SVP, Global Products. Examples include swapping in and out different presenters or bespoke commentary.

Vinayak Shrivastav, Founder & CEO of AI-powered highlight generation platform Magnifi, reported that customisation of sports content is already playing an important role in India “particularly with the younger crowd which wants to follow different layers in the content.”

Just ahead of the show, Magnifi announced a partnership with Grabyo aimed at delivering a “human-centred video automation workflow” for sports content creators.

This links Magnifi’s computer vision technologies with Grabyo’s live production and distribution platform to give sports producers the ability to capture, edit, and publish highlight clips from live sports broadcasts at speed, and at scale; “It’s going to be fascinating to see how many different versions of the same content can be created,” Shrivastav said.

Oddly it was Google’s Hunter-Torricke who struck the only note of caution when addressing the existential threat from AI. “We need to deal with near-term potential dangers from AI—such as misinformation—from bad actors whether individuals or nation states that might choose to use this power in harmful ways. But when dealing with technology that is advancing this rapidly and is this powerful it will be too late if you do not seek to control it today.”

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