The broadcast and media industries are undergoing significant change. By 2023, 31% of all TV sets will be connected and 23% will be UHD, according to Dataxis. Furthermore, an additional 2.6 billion devices will be connected by 2023. Meanwhile, live streaming is expected to grow by 73% CAGR between 2017 and 2022, according to Cisco.
As the business environment becomes more complex and challenging, broadcasters have a greater need to adapt and be flexible. Cloud-based video solutions for services like playout are seen as a promising way to achieve this flexibility and easy scalability—the idea being that using cloud playout will allow media companies to launch “pop-up channels” faster, deliver traditional and OTT content more efficiently, and ensure they have a low-cost, reliable disaster recovery strategy in place.
There are several major benefits that cloud-based playout provide to broadcasters and media companies. The first advantage is flexibility—cloud playout allows broadcasters to introduce a new channel or adapt an existing one with a minimized lead time, making it easier to implement changes and react to market conditions.
With more flexibility also comes the ability to easily scale services according to market needs and changing business plans. For example, the cloud enables broadcasters to easily set up a new channel and test its viability before contracting on-premises services. Once the business model is proven, the broadcaster can then commit to on-premises services—or due to the added flexibility offered by a cloud solution—retain their content and workflows in the cloud.
Cloud workflows are also a cost-effective approach for short-term plans. The flexibility and scalability offered by cloud-enabled media services means broadcasters do not have to plan far ahead and make major infrastructure upgrades. Media companies can launch new services quickly and pay based on a flexible opex business model vs. making significant upfront investments in infrastructure.
Moreover, using a fully managed cloud-based playout service, broadcasters can be assured that their channels will run 24/7. The cloud playout service operator secures maintenance, monitoring and engineering support to ensure reliability.
In addition, the cloud makes it possible for the customer to have increased transparency and involvement in their operational workflow. Broadcasters can access playout workflows via web browsers from anywhere in the world. The cloud also gives operators the power to manage every aspect of the playout process from a single screen. For a broadcaster that truly wants to have a global reach, the cloud is the best way to achieve this.
IDEAL USE CASES
Cloud playout offers distinct advantages compared with traditional hardware and software approaches. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the broadcast industry is moving everything to the cloud. For channels that are key assets in content packages it still makes more sense to invest in on-premises services as that results in greater cost-efficiencies in the long-term. Broadcasters need to decide on the most appropriate solution for each use case.
One instance where cloud playout is interesting is for pop-up channels. If there is a major sports tournament or live event that a broadcaster wants to cover for a short amount of time, it can quickly and cost-effectively launch a new channel. Once the event is over, the channel can instantly be taken off the service lineup.
Another use case that is perfect for cloud playout is localizing content and implementing ad replacement. Today’s television viewers like personalized content—with cloud playout, broadcasters can address the growing demand for tailored content, by delivering personalized programming and advertising that appeals to the viewers’ interests and geographical location.
In addition, cloud playout simplifies disaster recovery, as a broadcaster can contract a cloud backup more cost-efficiently than a on-premises playout. This is because a cloud backup has the option to start up and create the operational cost only in the event of a disaster, whereas an on-premises backup needs a dedicated pre-investment, independent from a disaster event.
Broadcasters are facing immense challenges, including a growing consumer demand for UHD, personalized and OTT content, and to stay competitive they need flexible, scalable playout solutions. The cloud provides long-term scalability, allowing for channels to be tested and new audiences and regions to be explored. Media companies can introduce new channels fast, and take them down just as quickly, if needed
The capacity of cloud technology to control technology costs and enable flexible business models is being recognized in many industries. In the media world, managing content via the cloud is an opportunity to be more agile, expand reach and better monetize video content.
Frank Hoffmann is senior vice president Strategy, Products and Customer Experience, SES Video.