The business of broadcast is like any other enterprise vertical, in that the rise of mobility, social enablement and all-digital, all-IP transactions are creating a level of complexity hitherto unknown. And like other enterprises, content and media companies and their distribution partners are looking to boost productivity, optimize resources and cut costs, by embracing the cloud. But the challenges include the rapid growth in the amount of multiscreen video content and a dizzying proliferation of options at each stage of the video processing workflow.
“As broadcast and entertainment companies continue to experience an industry revolution, new device, delivery and workflow technologies offer opportunities for high performers to take the lead. Cloud computing, as an evolving technology, is poised to make an impact by supporting the next round of breakthroughs,” noted Accenture in a recent report. “The cloud has the potential to disrupt the industry and individual businesses, both positively and negatively. It can address a number of intriguing challenges that media and entertainment companies face—from proliferating devices that demand a more flexible business model to new levels of IT capacity requirements that dictate highly scalable IT solutions to competitive pressures for speed and innovation that call for better workflow, business analytics and customer insight. And, cloud providers are improving their ability to offer their clients the ability to deliver high quality content quickly, while delivering content accessed less frequently in less expensive, large scale areas of their cloud data centers.”
Staying agile amidst these changes is critical for both next-generation and traditional distributors, and so perhaps it’s not surprising that lately there’s been a groundswell of development when it comes to cloud enablement and streamlining of existing business processes. Leading the way were some heavy hitters, like Sony, which previewed a cloud-based collaboration and production service at last week’s National Association of Broadcasters event called Ci, aimed at broadcasters, studios and filmmakers.
"Every day, creative professionals around the world spend numerous hours and resources on non-creative tasks like moving and sharing content, figuring out how and where to store it, and getting the right assets to the right places and in the right hands," said Naomi Climer, president at Sony Media Cloud Services. "We designed Ci as a functionally rich, scalable and secure, media-focused cloud platform."
Initial applications include the ability to collect, organize, preview, share and archive media from the cloud; and logging functions and review and annotation tools are also provided.
Sony’s cloud-based workflow system is in trials with NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Turner Broadcasting, Raycom Media, The Weather Company and Crackle Productions, where it’s being used for everything from uploading, storing, and sharing 100MB+ media files, collaborative, remote review of dailies, and archiving of content to promo distribution, film submissions and classroom work.
This type of virtualized workflow has big ramifications for pay-TV providers, as David Peto, CEO at Aframe, noted. "Improving the speed and efficiency of the 'first mile' content creation process and delivery also can help reach the last mile of distribution so much quicker,” he said. “This brings the major benefits of cost-reduction, improved competitiveness and increased profitability."
Aframe meanwhile has launched its own cloud-based workflow service, and has become a cloud vendor for Sony's wireless camera adapter to speed up the workflow of broadcast content for news and production. Anyone working on a project can begin to organize the video, creating sub-clips and adding metadata in near real-time.
But it’s not just workflow that’s moving to the cloud. Adobe for instance has announced a new version of Adobe Primetime, with a new cloud ad insertion service that lets programmers and pay-TV operators insert ads into live, linear and on-demand content.
Cloud ad insertion enables content monetization on any connected device without requiring client code for ad insertion. The technology supports all TV content and is compatible with HLS to deliver any ad to any viewer on any screen. The existing client-side ad insertion capability, which ensures that broadcasters don't have to tap into large server capacities to reach large audiences, combined with cloud ad insertion, results in a delivery and format agnostic solution for content monetization.
"Primetime has become the leading platform to deliver and monetize TV everywhere at scale for broadcasters and pay-TV providers," said Jeremy Helfand, vice president of Primetime at Adobe. "This new release of Primetime takes advantage of the latest industry innovations and introduces new capabilities that drive strong viewer engagement and greater flexibility for monetization."
And not to be outdone, but Cisco is targeting media companies and pay-TV service providers as they look to deliver compelling video experiences across screens, with plans to virtualize and cloud-enable the video processing elements of its Videoscape TV service delivery platform.
"Our customers need a radically simpler and more agile video processing infrastructure as they seek to deliver new video experiences, and stay ahead of the rapid growth in video processing options and formats," said Joe Cozzolino, senior vice president and general manager for service provider video infrastructure. "Virtualized Video Processing (V2P) enables our customers to focus on delivering better video services, faster and more cost effectively, and frees them from the burden of buying, configuring and re-configuring individual pieces of hardware.”
The Virtualized Video Processing Portal configures complex workflow from a single screen; Virtualized Video Orchestrator allocates software and hardware resources from a common pool – which can be a mix of physical and virtual resources – to satisfy each workflow request. It embeds business and technical logic to instantiate, as needed, additional software and to allocate additional hardware.
Meanwhile, Cisco's Videoscape AnyRes multi-function software-based encoder and transcoder solution includes support for 4K video and the new HEVC compression standard for both video-on-demand (VOD) and live applications.
These won’t be the end of the migration to virtualized processes, that’s for certain. “The transformation currently underway in the media market is as profound and impactful as the reinvention of the music industry by Apple,” Accenture noted. “In that scenario, a nontraditional player leveraged an innovative platform to drive incredible change and completely altered the business model. The banking sector in the final decades of the 20th century is another example, where electronic capabilities brought new trading techniques on the business side, while ATMs and online access freed consumers to conduct transactions on their own schedule. The business model dramatically changed and continues to be built around that electronic platform. From a broadcast perspective, similar changes accelerated by cloud computing may soon inspire the same type of disruption and open doors for fierce competition.”
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