The Cloud: Broadcast in the future
We are seeing a number of key technological developments emerging within the sphere of production and broadcast. We speak to an industry specific panel to discuss this topic:
Brian Noonan – CEO, Broadcast Sim
Marc Risby – CTO, Boxer Systems
Steve Plunkett – CTO, Ericsson
Darren Woolfson – Group Director of Technology, Pinewood Studios Group
Richard Wilding – CTO, Molinare
In terms of business development, there are four main patterns beginning to surface within the industry that are steering the route that broadcast is taking:
- Development of content strategies
- Changes in Cloud-based storage
- Companies considering the value chain to achieve scale
- Investment into ‘direct to consumer’ offerings
There’s an emerging trend of both advertisers and consumers losing interest in traditional linear television, specifically the aspect of scheduled content, and opting to pay more attention to targeted campaigns that revolve around content that appeals to their interests.
Just as the broadcast of content is changing, so is the post production in order to suit a shifting landscape. “The Cloud isn’t working for us” says Woolfson from Pinewood. “We need more storage but don’t want to buy more disks, so we need to do something radical to concentrate on the changes to the post production of content”. With the rise of OTT providers (over-the-top content) is the audio, video, and other media content delivered over the Internet) and the content they’re producing, we see the new formats affecting multiple aspects of businesses including infrastructure, investment, workflow and delivery. “Going forward, technology is developing to keep up with device types and the plethora of new technical formats, standards and manufacturer advances, which can be a challenge” says Wilding from post production house Molinare. “To overcome this, we need to realise these developments aren’t just technical; we also need to consider social, economic and political factors that bring about change. Content and technology is reactive to these changes and the future is a wide spectrum of ideas; it’s our job to ensure they align correctly with the desires of the consumer.”
According to Plunkett from Ericsson, behind the scenes we are going through fundamental technical changes. “From hardware centric, industry specific models we are transitioning into IP-focused, Cloud-based tools. We have to keep up with a fast moving consumer pace and develop software in a more agile way to stay relevant.”
Whilst the Cloud was a huge step forward in terms of storage, the demand for content has somewhat superseded the capabilities of the resource. “The security concerns have been addressed and the services provided are working better than previous versions but in terms of the production of feature films, the process involves the acquisition of huge amounts of daily data in film rushes” says Woolfson. “At Pinewood there is 15-20 terabytes worth of data stored per day, with 7 processes applied before the media is reduced to 2 tapes, which is all achieved in 24 hours before the next set of data comes along. The current network speeds available don’t support the necessary requirements. Over the next few years things must change to consider this issue.”
Wilding weighs in: “Processing with the impact of 4K and UHD on media renders the Cloud somewhat outdated. The increased 4k file sizes have presented a real problem; when you factor an uncompressed 16 bit rate file, the storage has to be roughly 35 times larger and thus the capabilities cannot cope and the necessary infrastructure is not achievable.”
Value chain in business
The trends of technology are impacting both ends of the value chain from content creation to distribution. More broadcasters are attempting to acquire multi-channel networks to unearth new audiences at lower costs with higher viewing ratings that host a plethora of collaborative of content. With this in mind, we are seeing a real drive to invest in technology companies specialising in OTT services and programmatic advertising to either acquire or partner with.
The entry pool into the broadcasting of content has become significantly easier, and the content itself is more diluted, which has led to mass contribution to the market. After all, just because you can create content doesn’t necessarily mean it will be of high quality.
Risby from system integrators Boxer Systems considers the consolidation of systems and uses the Cloud as an example of rapidly adjusting to meet fluctuating and unpredictable business demands but still having pitfalls due to the infancy of the concept. “Managing small content that is not timely using a standard network is easy. But the connectivity issues come from larger content in 4k and UHD as a result of consumer demands for high quality. The Cloud is important but it has a long way to go until it becomes commonly used as a problem solving tool for the industry.”
Direct to consumer offerings
Following on from ideas of consumer demands, businesses are concentrating more on customer focused propositions such as streaming app suites, programming via subscription services and heavier investment in their social media presence.
Noonan from Broadcast Sim looks at the emerging popularity of video content via social platforms and says it is integral to brands and services to communicate using video. “Facebook Live and similar channels are great for brand communication as that’s where consumer eyes are looking. The last few weeks we’ve seen companies using film crew and vision mixers to make the Facebook streaming element look better. This sidesteps traditional broadcast methods to reach the consumer which is important to note, as we need to understand how digital platforms are reaching and engaging with consumers.”
These propositions offer businesses access to valuable consumer data that refer to viewing preferences, consumption patterns and demographics that can be used to uncover insights that support business decisions and forecast future strategies.
As for the consumer, they are exposed to wider brand proliferation and tailored interaction on a personal level which in turn leads to greater customer loyalty and satisfaction.
By analysing the consumer data efficiently, new audiences can be exposed that were previously overlooked by traditional methods.
Looking ahead, there needs to be a crucial element of balance by keeping creativity and craft skills on one hand, but harnessing the world of IT on other hand. “We have to make IT appropriate for media such as live content and react immediately if it is wrong” says Risby. “Making the IT structures and systems fit for purpose and integrated with the production and broadcasting side is crucial. By connecting IT skills with traditional broadcast skills, we will see a convergence of both into a more cohesive structure that paves the way for relevant training and ultimately bridges the gap between IT infrastructures and broadcast options.”
The overall learning curve from the CTOs was apparent; there must be scalability and improving capacity and performance at the forefront of our minds in order to succeed.