EM­BRAC­ING THE CLOUD REV­O­LU­TIONISES MAN­AGED BROAD­CAST SER­VICES

As me­dia tech­nol­ogy end users vir­tu­alise their in­fra­struc­tures, the tech­nol­ogy sup­pli­ers are re­quired to move to new busi­ness mod­els based on the flex­i­ble pro­vi­sion of re­sources.

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In the Ed­i­tor’s in­tro­duc­tion, we dis­cussed how the search for agility is trans­lat­ing into in­creased spend­ing on OPEX mod­els rather CAPEX. Ac­cord­ing to IABM data, CAPEX spend­ing in the in­dus­try slightly de­clined be­tween 2015 and 2017 although gen­eral me­dia tech­nol­ogy in­vest­ment has grown at most me­dia com­pa­nies. (Fig­ure 1)

In­dus­try in­vest­ment in tech­nol­ogy spend­ing is mov­ing to­wards OPEX as end-users try to make their busi­nesses more flex­i­ble and re­spon­sive to mar­ket changes, through the in­creased vir­tu­al­i­sa­tion of their in­fra­struc­tures.

The launch of di­rect-to-con­sumer of­fer­ings and the in­creased use of IT tech­nol­ogy in op­er­a­tions is also cre­at­ing an enor­mous amount of data end-users need to make sense of in or­der to keep up with the na­tive dig­i­tal play­ers like Ama­zon and Net­flix. There­fore, me­dia com­pa­nies are in­creas­ingly look­ing at how a tech­nol­ogy ven­dor’s so­lu­tion fits into their con­tent sup­ply-chains.

Some me­dia tech­nol­ogy sup­pli­ers have suc­cess­fully tran­si­tioned to new of­fer­ings and found new ways to work with me­dia com­pa­nies. As me­dia com­pa­nies be­come tech­nol­ogy builders rather than buy­ers, they look for sup­pli­ers who can help them by pro­vid­ing the tools to de­velop flex­i­ble and cus­tom­ized so­lu­tions. This though re­quires sup­pli­ers to tran­si­tion from a trans­ac­tional to a ser­vice-based ap­proach to sales and new mod­els of col­lab­o­ra­tion and en­gage­ment.

Th­ese mod­els rely on a com­mer­cial model that pri­or­i­tizes OPEX over CAPEX with the user spend­ing in smaller, monthly cash flows rather than larger up­front pay­ments. This tran­si­tion quite of­ten has an ini­tial fi­nan­cial im­pact that may be dif­fi­cult to ab­sorb for some me­dia tech­nol­ogy or­gan­i­sa­tions thus driv­ing con­sol­i­da­tion among tech­nol­ogy sup­pli­ers. Skills also need to adapt to this change as new meth­ods of ser­vices de­liv­ery in­creas­ingly de­mand a blend of broad­cast and IT skills.

Man­aged ser­vices providers also act as in­no­va­tion fa­cil­i­ta­tors when they in­vest in R&D and shares the fruits of in­no­va­tion with many cus­tomers in a more ef­fi­cient and scal­able in­vest­ment and op­er­a­tional model. IABM re­search shows that me­dia tech­nol­ogy sup­pli­ers are fo­cus­ing their R&D in­vest­ment on vir­tu­al­i­sa­tion and IP (Fig­ure 2), as well as mov­ing to new busi­ness mod­els that fa­cil­i­tate the flex­i­ble pro­vi­sion­ing of re­sources through man­aged ser­vices.

MOVE TO THE CLOUD

By im­ple­ment­ing an end-to-end man­aged ser­vices plat­form in the pub­lic/ pri­vate cloud that en­com­passes con­tent prepa­ra­tion, chan­nel playout, con­tent de­liv­ery, and mon­eti­sa­tion for both lin­ear TV and OTT, broad­cast­ers can scale up rapidly and de­liver con­tent in­no­va­tively. Even though the move to the cloud is a pri­or­ity for most me­dia com­pa­nies, the use of on-premise in­fra­struc­ture will not dis­ap­pear any time soon. How­ever, the chang­ing na­ture of the me­dia busi­ness means tech­nol­ogy buy­ers now re­quire more flex­i­ble pay­ment mod­els.

Many tra­di­tional broad­cast ser­vice providers might not be able to de­liver both TV and OTT playout ser­vices un­der one roof, leav­ing broad­cast­ers fac­ing fur­ther cost pres­sures just as mul­ti­screen de­liv­ery be­comes the norm.

Pre­par­ing playout-ready con­tent from thou­sands of hours of con­tent is a la­bor­in­ten­sive process. Tra­di­tional broad­cast in­fra­struc­ture ser­vices in­volv­ing higher CAPEX ex­po­sure and higher OPEX, are be­com­ing un­fea­si­ble be­cause of their phys­i­cal, man­ual, and peo­ple-in­ten­sive op­er­at­ing mod­els. Mov­ing the con­tent to the cloud makes it pos­si­ble to in­te­grate new-age au­to­mated pro­cesses us­ing ma­chine-learn­ing tech­niques to re­duce hu­man in­ter­ven­tion wher­ever pos­si­ble and drive scal­a­bil­ity.

Be­sides the ben­e­fit of au­tomat­ing man­ual pro­cesses, a cloud-man­aged broad­cast ser­vice provider gives me­dia net­works a wide choice of spe­cial­ist third-party ser­vice providers and pay-asyou-use in­fra­struc­ture.

SOFT­WARE VIR­TU­AL­I­SA­TION

In the tra­di­tional playout setup, broad­cast­ers are locked into phys­i­cal broad­cast-spe­cific in­fra­struc­ture that was as­sumed ne­c­es­sary to de­liver “broad­cast-grade” video. To­day, ev­ery­thing needed to pre­pare the con­tent for playout from post­pro­duc­tion, sub­ti­tle cre­ation, and chan­nel brand­ing, to stor­age and ar­chiv­ing — can be done via soft­ware de­ployed on the cloud.

When the plat­form and workflow

be­come soft­ware de­fined, then rather than adding ded­i­cated broad­cast tech, one can de­fine and spin up new chan­nel ser­vices based on soft­ware con­fig­u­ra­tion only. A vir­tu­alised playout plat­form can not only of­fer new-age readi­ness, but also help with tac­ti­cal flex­i­bil­ity.

Op­er­at­ing on a uni­fied soft­ware de­fined func­tion­al­ity also helps man­aged ser­vice providers move into glob­ally vi­able op­er­a­tional mod­els. De­ploy­ing a new cus­tomer to your plat­form be­comes much more ag­ile and teams sit­ting re­motely can ser­vice cus­tomers glob­ally. Me­dia com­pa­nies can ac­cess their work­flows from any re­mote lo­ca­tion through a web in­ter­face and mon­i­tor the ser­vice 24/7.

For ex­am­ple, vir­tu­alised playout to­day al­lows TV net­works to merge pri­mary and re­gional feeds, al­low­ing them to se­lec­tively re­place con­tent without hav­ing to cre­ate a com­pletely new feed. As a re­sult, a vir­tu­alised playout of­fers un­par­al­leled con­trol over op­er­a­tions without sac­ri­fic­ing trans­parency.

Fur­ther, when ev­ery broad­caster has their ded­i­cated in­fra­struc­ture, av­er­age utiliza­tion is quite low. When you move into shared IP mod­els and out­source it to ser­vice providers, utiliza­tion of the tech­nol­ogy and work­force will im­prove.

MAN­AG­ING COM­PLEX­ITY: WORLD­WIDE CON­TENT DE­LIV­ERY

A soft­ware de­fined cloud-based man­aged broad­cast so­lu­tion gives me­dia com­pa­nies un­prece­dented flex­i­bil­ity to de­liver con­tent to any geo­graph­i­cal re­gion via satel­lite, fiber, cloud, IPTV, and OTT mod­els. By lever­ag­ing a de­liv­ery net­work built on part­ner­ships with bestin-class tele­ports, fiber POPs, and CDNs, such plat­forms cover the en­tire globe and can de­liver con­tent to any re­gion, by any com­bi­na­tion of de­liv­ery mod­els.

The gen­eral lack of stan­dard­i­s­a­tion for in­ter­op­er­abil­ity be­tween ven­dor so­lu­tions is a chal­lenge for the in­dus­try where man­aged ser­vice providers can of­fer a more ef­fi­cient so­lu­tion. As they op­ti­mise the end-to-end workflow, a man­aged ser­vice provider can ad­dress th­ese chal­lenges by cre­at­ing in­ter­op­er­abil­ity be­tween process steps in the work­flows.

In­creas­ing com­plex­ity in the me­dia busi­ness is an­other rea­son why con­sol­i­da­tion is hap­pen­ing on the sup­ply side, be­cause man­ag­ing the tech­nol­ogy com­plex­ity re­quires a cer­tain level of in­vest­ment, skill and scale. As de­vices get bet­ter and as net­works be­come more ca­pa­ble, we will con­tinue to see more ul­tra hi-def­i­ni­tion for­mats, fur­ther driv­ing com­plex­ity in the work streams, as me­dia com­pa­nies need to pre­pare con­tent and de­liver in all of th­ese for­mats.

Red Bee Me­dia CEO Steve Ny­lund re­cently told Dig­i­tal Stu­dio ME: “For a man­aged ser­vices provider, com­plex­ity is a good thing. When op­er­a­tions and tech­nol­ogy be­come in­creas­ingly com­plex, it is an­other good rea­son why cus­tomers should out­source ser­vices to providers.”

THE RIGHT COM­MER­CIAL MODEL

The move to the cloud and soft­ware­de­fined virtual playout is in­tro­duc­ing new busi­ness mod­els in the me­dia tech­nol­ogy in­dus­try. As end-users in­creas­ingly use generic IT equip­ment in­stead of be­spoke broad­cast tech­nol­ogy the mar­ket is see­ing a deflation in pric­ing mar­gins for tech­nol­ogy sup­pli­ers.

The frag­mented sup­ply-side is strug­gling to make re­turns on in­vest­ments made, driv­ing con­sol­i­da­tion among tech­nol­ogy providers. As end users vir­tu­alise their in­fra­struc­tures, the tech­nol­ogy sup­pli­ers are re­quired to move to new busi­ness mod­els based on the flex­i­ble pro­vi­sion of re­sources.

The in­dus­try is mov­ing to on-de­mand pric­ing where you can have a stan­dard rate card for cer­tain ser­vices. De­vis­ing the right com­mer­cial model for its tech­nol­ogy ven­dor is of­ten as cru­cial as get­ting the ac­tual tech­nol­ogy to work. Man­aged ser­vices providers will have to work out a rate card of pre­dictable pric­ing for clients. The abil­ity to rent ca­pac­ity at a known price will help end-users make busi­ness de­ci­sions much quicker.

In the MENA re­gion, larger broad­cast­ers have been work­ing in the tra­di­tional model for some time with be­spoke broad­cast tech­nol­ogy and they are quite nat­u­rally now in the phase where they have to both in­vest in and re­fresh tech­nol­ogy, or out­source op­er­a­tions. As they look to trans­form their ser­vices, many of them are now eval­u­at­ing the man­aged broad­cast ser­vices op­tions so they can be­come more ef­fi­cient and cre­ate new rev­enue op­por­tu­ni­ties.

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