We are living in the video era—the staggering statistics on video growth make that abundantly clear. According to Cisco’s “Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Methodology 2016–2021,” video will make up 82 percent of all consumer internet traffic by 2021, an increase from 73 percent in 2016. To put this in perspective, “it would take an individual more than five million years to watch the amount of video that will be crossing global IP networks each month in 2021.”
This video era has also given rise to the “golden age of television,” thanks to the proliferation of high-quality scripted dramas available to the video consumer. Linear television is no longer the only place (or even the main place) where people watch this content, but the major broadcast and cable networks remain key drivers in its creation and distribution.
THE CURRENT STATE OF PLAY
This new media landscape for distributing video has created huge challenges—as well as opportunities—for the media and entertainment industry.
Ten years ago, the big technological transformations affecting the television supply chain were primarily the move to end-to-end file-based workflows and the migration to HD. Today both transitions are largely complete—from acquisition all the way through distribution.
But changes keep coming, including the move to larger sized file formats and a whole array of completely new categories—360-degree video, VR, AR, MR, HDR, WCG.
Supporting new distribution platforms and adapting to new video formats are only part of the story. For example, content producers and aggregators increasingly look to IP technology for data transport within their facilities. More broadly, the evolution of the cloud has had a massive impact on how media companies of all types operate today. Big data analytics and AI provide deeper insights into customers’ viewing habits. And data security has become an important aspect of almost all technology decisions.
All these, combined with the ever more globalized content supply chains, have radically altered how media companies approach content creation and distribution—specifically the infrastructure and processes needed to support them.
OPERATIONAL SPEED—THE KEY TO SUCCESS
A decade ago, most large video content providers deployed monolithic, complex, on-premises systems designed to process large amounts of media content targeted at a single distribution platform: typically traditional linear television. End-to-end file-based workflows were just becoming mainstream. Although the promise of eliminating the use of videotape was compelling, file-based infrastructure was far from a panacea.
Such systems required large financial investments (tens of millions of dollars for the largest). Due to their complexity, the systems typically needed many months, sometimes years, to fully implement. In addition, these systems required significant ongoing maintenance and management, frustrated users, frequently relied on custom and often inflexible integrations, and accommodated peak anticipated future load, resulting in costly low utilization.
So long as the volume of content processed by these systems did not substantially change—and so long as the target platforms and associated deliverables, timelines, and process requirements remained largely unaltered—they worked great, for the most part.
These solutions are fundamentally ill-suited to meet the complex, fragmented demands of today's content providers and the radically transformed media landscape in which we all live.
SO WHERE TO FROM HERE?
The cloud has enabled massive changes on the demand side of the media equation, but it has also enabled completely new approaches on the supply side.
As consumers embrace newer service models for accessing content, so too do M&E companies see significant advantages in buying technology as services that can be quickly spun up as required, and then taken back down again when no longer needed.
“Quickly” is the operative word. And that's exactly what these cloud-based services offer.
Faster deployment, simplicity, flexibility, pay-as-you-go OPEX economics, and scalability all make this an attractive model for an increasing number of use cases.
The Digital Production Partnership (DPP) industry group summed up today’s realities for M&E companies in their NAB 2017 “The Need for Speed” report: “There are strong creative, financial and operational arguments for the move to IP production and cloud services. But the most compelling reason of all may simply be that audience behaviors will now require any content provider to be able to turn on a dime.”
TURNING ON A DIME IS THE NEW REALITY
With so much competition for the attention of consumers, video content needs to be produced using systems flexible and simple enough to support whatever new distribution platforms or markets gain audience traction. The ability of content companies to operate and adapt at speed has become key to survival and success in this consumer-driven and cloud-enabled media landscape.
Operational speed in this context covers a wide range of needs and capabilities. These include the ability to do the following, at speed:
· Create, process, and deliver more content across multiple supply chains under tight deadlines.
· Purchase and deploy solutions that enable fast content creation and distribution.
· Maintain and manage critical infrastructure for evolving workflows.
· Leverage cloud storage and other services where appropriate, but also support on-premises tools and infrastructure.
· Easily onboard and train users on tools for content creation and management.
· Support new use cases and global workflows.
· Scale out systems to meet peak demand and scale them back again as demand drops.
· Adapt to new formats, markets, and distribution platforms as these emerge.
· Support the seamless addition of new customers, partners, suppliers, projects, and locations as needed.
· Take advantage of automation where applicable.
Collectively, such capabilities provide media businesses with the speed and flexibility they need to rapidly deliver on existing content commitments, as well as pursue new opportunities.
“TURN ON A DIME” WITH NEXT-GENERATION FILE TRANSFER
Speed takes many forms. At Signiant, our ability to accelerate the transfer of large files over IP networks is core to all our products. But for our M&E customers, the ability to “turn on a dime” covers many other aspects of their overall media operations. Speed, in all its aspects, is always on our minds as we innovate and enhance our products so that they address as many of these needs for operational speed as possible. I invite you to learn Signiant Media Shuttle, a SaaS accelerated file transfer solution that might just satisfy some of your need for speed.
About the Author
Mike Nash, Director of Product Management, Media Shuttle, Signiant. With more than twenty years of experience guiding the software development process, Mike Nash is adept at agile development practices for cloud-based software. At Signiant, he helped pioneer hybrid SaaS solutions for the accelerated transfer of large unstructured data sets over public and private IP networks, and has managed the development of Media Shuttle from inception. His goal is to both delight users and give businesses the technology they need to define the future of their industry. He thrives on talking with customers and is always accessible no matter how trivial the question. Besides managing product development, Mike also manages a four-horse farm at his home, a short bike ride from the Signiant office in Ottawa.