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Why Cloud Playout is Here to Stay

Cloud playout
(Image credit: Veset)

Despite the ups-and-downs of TV’s appeal over the years, the media landscape is growing increasingly competitive. Broadcasters are having to revisit strategies and workflows to ensure they can keep up with the growing demands and expectations of viewers. In such a fast-paced industry, having the flexibility to adapt quickly without the worry of delays and escalating costs is essential.

So how can content providers ensure they are delivering the highest-quality content to consumers, whilst simultaneously keeping operating costs low and channel management accessible? For many broadcasters, this has been achieved by transitioning their existing services to the cloud.

First, Let’s Just Get One Thing Clear
Before going on to discuss the huge benefits of using the cloud for playout, it is important to understand that true cloud working is not the same as virtualization. Both rely on similar models and principles, but the technology of virtualization is essentially only one step in the evolution which led to the development of modern cloud technologies. 

Put simply, virtualization is a technology that allows software to use hardware computing resources more efficiently, making a single resource act like many. Cloud embeds such technologies as virtualization at its core but modern cloud infrastructure offers a much greater range of services, allowing a sharing of resources beyond anything a standalone private data centre with virtualization can achieve. Typically deploying a cloud native application in a virtualized private datacenter is possible but essentially a downgrade in terms of the capabilities that can be achieved when running in the public cloud.

True Cloud Playout: Ticking the Right Boxes
Events of the last few years have led to an increased need for playout solutions that allow for remote operation. Working in the cloud helped operators to solve the immediate crisis that Covid created and now, cloud working is revolutionizing how broadcasting will be done long term. Switching playout to the cloud brings a number of benefits in terms of cost savings, flexibility, scalability and efficiency.

Significant cost savings are gained because cloud working removes the need for physical infrastructure and complex hardware, reducing capital expenditure. Cost savings don’t stop there. Transitioning to the cloud can be done with minimum upfront costs, and true cloud playout can also have lower ongoing operating costs than traditional systems. This is in part because, typically, you only pay for services that you use.

In terms of flexibility, cloud working allows operators to access and easily manage their channels, as well as carry out maintenance through a web application from any location. Flexible working means broadcasters can be responsive to user needs and quickly and easily launch new channels or close existing ones as required. In the past, linear TV channels were envisaged to run infinitely into the future, nowadays they enjoy much shorter lifespans.

By utilizing the scalability of the cloud for playout, providers can prepare media content and launch channels quickly, while remaining in control of their own content and channels. Cloud playout also makes it easier for operators to expand reach and target a wider audience by scaling up and launching services or channels in new regions. The beauty of cloud scalability is that it can be done quickly and easily as the business need arises, meaning there is no need to invest in costly infrastructure to scale up.

Operational efficiency improves with cloud playout because operators can easily optimize systems by streamlining workflows and integrating seamlessly with existing systems. Moving media operations to the cloud gives operators better tools for automation, data management and analytics. When it comes to integration with other cloud native solutions, integration is usually very fast as most new generation solutions use REST APIs which underpins data sharing.

Why Cloud-Native Solutions Offer the Biggest Advantages
Maximum reward comes from using cloud native solutions that are designed for, and built in the cloud, as opposed to cloud ready solutions that are not ‘born in the cloud’ but are instead adapted and made workable for cloud use. 

Cloud native solutions simply do not rely on virtualization, they involve the use of multiple microservices and utilize deployment tools such as kubernetes to allow for automatic scaling to meet demand and high availability across multiple geo-diverse locations.

It is through designing and implementing cloud native solutions that operators can achieve the lowest operating costs, the highest reliability and the greatest flexibility. The same level of benefits are not realized if existing on-premises processes and software are simply lifted and moved straight into the cloud.

A Gentle Transition
Given that cloud native solutions offer the biggest advantages, it is perhaps understandable that broadcasters are reluctant to make the full transition to cloud working, because of the perceived disruption and upheaval that comes with reimagining all workflows.

It doesn’t have to be like that. Broadcasters can choose to opt for a hybrid model where they first ‘cloudify’ the elements of their workflow that suit their business the most. This can pave the way for a more gentle transition to a fully cloud based operation. Regardless of whether your media business is embracing cloud working wholeheartedly or perhaps you’re just dipping your toe in the water (or should that be dipping your toe in the cloud?), cloud playout can work for you.

The Future is Cloud Playout
With the shift towards cloud-based operations having been accelerated by COVID, the broadcast industry is evolving at an incredible rate. As the advantages of operating from the cloud become more obvious and harder to ignore, there will come a time when operators will be faced with the decision of either transitioning to the cloud, or getting left behind.

This is certainly true of playout because, without a doubt, cloud playout optimizes operations and provides a future-proof, economical way of managing linear and live TV channels.

Igor Krol is CEO of Veset.