CES Panel: Envisioning Entertainment in the 5G Ecosystem

UTA chief innovation officer Brent Weinstein convened technology and entertainment honchos to parse out 5G’s impact on a range of M&E applications. Intel senior vice president/general manager of the network platforms group Sandra Rivera opined that, “it’s never too early to be on the forefront of innovation.” “The work we did on 4G created the environment that drew in investment and services from Airbnb to Netflix and Uber,” she said. “We’re not quite at 5G, but the excitement is attracting the entrepreneurs and engineers.”

“These transitions are not overnight, but measured in long periods of time,” she added. “A lot of this is the journey of discovery of where you’re able to capture value, so you don’t get into the over-hyped curve and trough of disillusionment. We make those investments way before we make chipsets.”

In terms of timing the new experience for consumers, Hulu vice president of software development Rafael Soltanovich (below right) said his company is agnostic. “We’re all about delivering flexibility and control to the consumer regardless of what device they have,” he said. “We want to optimize our comprehensive experience for the whole spectrum, whether you’re an early adopter or have an older device.”

For ThirdEye Gen founder Nick Cherukuri, whose company produces AR/MR experiences, 5G will have a positive impact on the form factor and capabilities of smart glasses. “And the lowered latency from 10 milliseconds to one millisecond opens up a lot of use cases,” he added.

With regard to the evolution of real, not hyped 5G services, Weinstein asked the role the panelists’ companies would play “to make sure carriers are honest brokers.” “The role of standards is critical, especially if you look at the need for interoperability,” said Rivera. “We don’t have a single standard and device manufacturers have to fragment their investment. Fragmentation isn’t typically a great way to go faster, but increasingly what we’re seeing.”

She sees a potential bright spot in open source projects accelerating the development of interoperable standards.

At 20th Century Fox, executive vice president, business development and strategic partnerships John Penney (above left, with Soltanovich) noted that it’s not just 5G but edge computing that is creating new paradigms. “We need to create value-added services on top of a 5G infrastructure, “ he said. “So we need to tell the technical architecture from the hype. Telecommunication companies always want to put a number on the network, but if it doesn’t have the capabilities and reliabilities, it won’t matter a whit to us.”

Soltanovich noted that, “5G is a bit behind the curve, as 4G was a bit ahead of it.” “It starts with the quality of the experience we can deliver,” he said. “Sporting and live programming makes frames-per-second extremely important. With 5G, being able to prioritize the latency of different traffic on the network is very interesting to us.” Rivera noted that 5G will enable immersive, interactive personalized experiences, and Cherukuri said wearables are the next platform. “In five or ten years most people will wear smart glasses, which let you be hands-free,” he said.

Penney talked about the forces at play in deciding whether to tell producers to adopt new technologies such as 8K. With asynchronous entertainment (movies and TV), he said, “time and again, in the real world, it’s hard to generate incremental value by a marginal increase from 2K to 4K to 8K.”

“The problem is when you look back in the production/post chain, the cost doesn’t scale,” he added. But when it comes to 5G and live entertainment, one value proposition is transmitting massive amounts of data without cables. “If you utilize the technology to improve the experience, there’s a tremendous consumer aspect that isn’t just higher resolution,” he said.