Why Broadcasters are Moving Storage into the Cloud

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There have never been more options for broadcasters to optimize their business with cloud-based technology. A current and growing trend is the accelerated adoption of cloud storage. Cloud storage provides a new level of flexibility for broadcasters, creating new efficiencies and cost-savings, while meeting security and disaster recovery (DR) demands. The cloud also opens a door for the latest innovations, such as machine-learning (ML) for enhanced metadata.

Some broadcasters have serviceable methods for storing their data locally and will be inclined to take the view, “if it ain’t broke, etc.” There is, however, an opportunity cost to continued reliance on on-prem storage. Cloud storage offers far more than simply a safety net for DR. 

There are the obvious benefits that are inherent to the cloud: unlimited scale and cost-efficiencies that come from not having to build and maintain physical facilities for archiving locally, as well as real opportunities for how content in the cloud can be handled, both for proxy and high-resolution files.

Most broadcasters today are not just transmitting channels through a broadcast antenna, cable, or satellite, but are also connecting content with multiple endpoints simultaneously, whether that's direct to consumer (D2C) or to other partners with licensing agreements. There are additional operations that can be done to that content while it's in the cloud. One example of that is metadata enhancement.

Using machine learning (ML) and/or artificial intelligence (AI) means additional metadata can be created, whether it's something simple like creating a text transcript from the audio, or something much more sophisticated, such as documenting what is in the video itself, from a certain personality to a weather event.

There is a great deal of capabilities like these that are much more accessible to broadcasters in a cloud environment than on prem. Cloud storage also provides the ability to future-proof content. If new metadata technologies emerge, they can be applied to whatever content is in the cloud, whether its new or old.

DR is another area where cloud-based storage can pay off. Hosting content in a cloud data center, built specifically to minimize risk, and available in multiple geographies, gives broadcasters peace of mind knowing their content is always available.

The financial consequences of an outage, though considerable, are not the only reasons to be prepared. There is a reputational cost to outages and a potential loss of customers who could rapidly lose trust in your service. Since the risk factors for outages, which range from extreme weather events to, increasingly, ransomware attacks, are never going away, it is reasonable to assume that there could be a major disruption of one form or another. The cloud provides broadcasters with the confidence that they can continue through any eventuality without lasting harm to their business.

Another benefit is the synergy between cloud storage and cloud-based editing tools. This is a new trend that I believe the industry is facing today. Ubiquitous access to a piece of content across an enterprise, not just for a singular station, but for any endpoint, makes it easy for a user to edit the content and prepare it for broadcast. The cloud provides even greater access to more content, faster, and from anywhere.

A potential obstacle to adoption of cloud storage is cost. Placing all your content in hi-res with a cloud provider comes with an OPEX commitment. But broadcasters can navigate their way through this by working with a third party that benefits from lower costs as economies of scale kick in: the third party pays for more storage, pooling storage costs across several broadcasters, while ensuring that each one has its own, dedicated, and secure directory. By leveraging the buying power of its customer base, the third-party provider enables individual broadcasters to receive the full benefits of the cloud while saving the expense of going to a cloud provider directly. 

The cloud is fast becoming the standard approach for new media service storage. The scalability aspect of cloud storage has always been a strong incentive in its own right. Today, the additional gains in efficiency and agility make cloud storage a powerful behind-the-scenes tool for optimization as well as access. From a business standpoint, the cloud creates significant cost efficiencies while creating new opportunities to enhance content and expand a broadcaster’s offering to the end user.

Sam Peterson
COO, Bitcentral

Sam Peterson is COO for Bitcentral.