How the cloud is driving huge change across the media industry

The cloud is driving change in the media industry at an incredible rate, thanks to benefits achieved by its scalability and affordability. In an exclusive roundtable interview, industry experts debate the unique needs of the sector and outline strategies for success in the years ahead

Lindsay James
Lindsay James
By Lindsay James on 29 October 2018
How the cloud is driving huge change across the media industry

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2018 issue of The Record.

THE PANEL: 
Miljenko Logozar, chief broadcast architect, Al Jazeera
John Ive, director strategic insight, IABM
Tony Emerson, managing director for Media and Cable, Microsoft

What are the unique needs of media companies when it comes to the cloud?
Miljenko Logozar: Aside from gathering news in an ever-changing and often volatile world, our unique need has been to connect over 70 bureaus and around 4,000 employees to ensure that we are the first to break stories for our ­multi-lingual audiences. This means removing the barriers associated with legacy technology and trusting in the cloud to support an open and efficient media platform which can connect content creation with collaboration, asset protection, distribution and consumption.

John Ive: The broadcast industry has always thought of itself as something special. As a result, it has always had specialised technology associated with it which has led to a certain reluctance to embrace cloud technology. In the early days it was easy to do this, but the technology has grown up since. The improvements that the cloud is bringing now match with some of the unique needs of the industry. The very issues that, in the early days, kept the cloud at bay – such as the size of files and the data rates that where involved – are now becoming a bottle neck in on-premises systems. As a result, media companies are finding that they need the scalability and on demand capacity that the cloud promises.

Tony Emerson: Media companies are actually using cloud to manufacture, produce and distribute their products and, as a result, are much more reliant on it than other industries. This leads to reservations about its adoption because it inevitably leads to a loss of control over workflow. With this in mind, media companies need to find a cloud provider that they trust to handle their precious assets securely, responsibly and cost effectively.

How can media companies find genuine competitive advantage through the adoption of cloud technology?
Tony Emerson: The pure scalability that the cloud brings to an operation means that media companies can achieve lower processing costs and lower running costs. They no longer have to make large capital investments in areas which really aren’t going to differentiate them. Another genuine advantage of cloud adoption is that media companies can move their entire workflow to the cloud and therefore reduce the time it takes to complete a project. This greater efficiency is a huge asset. Another great advantage of the cloud is that it enables media companies to retain much more of their data, without traditional costs. Animation companies, for example, can store all of their previous work so that it can be reused. Broadcasters, meanwhile, can keep reams of interview clips that can be easily indexed and searched, enabling much greater efficiency than in the past.

John Ive: In some respects, it’s not so much about competitive advantage – instead it’s about staying relevant. Ultimately, broadcasters and media firms are going to be at a disadvantage if they don’t leverage the cloud. It is a dilemma for a lot of companies because they know they have got to get into the cloud, but they also recognise that some of the solutions have not yet matured, so they have to get their timing right. That said, there’s already a lot of advantage to be had. Cloud applications are allowing collaboration between experts spread across the world. This is huge because it means talent – whether an artist, someone in post-production or media management can be based absolutely anywhere. 

Miljenko Logozar: Adopting the cloud can be truly transformational. The biggest benefits we are experiencing relate to global collaboration and speed of production. We have implemented an open, integrated and efficient news workflow based on Avid MediaCentral across our global news network. The deployment has helped us achieve several business and operational objectives, increasing the production of compelling content at lower costs, while extending audience reach.

How do you expect things to change over the next few years?
Tony Emerson:
As the industry gets more and more efficient, the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) through the cloud will become mainstream, enabling companies to do much more – certainly around transcription and video analysis – but without the expense. But this won’t replace jobs like many people feat. Instead jobs in the industry will become more fun and more creative. However, for the use of AI to be most effective, it needs to be used in a better way. Netflix is doing a pretty good job at making recommendations of what to watch, but why should it stop just at Netflix? Consumers want these recommendations across the board – they don’t want specific suggestions based on a single outlet. I think this will evolve in the years to come.

John Ive: Live sport is one area where I expect significant transformation. In order to do a traditional broadcast, a company would have to effectively send the television station to the venue. This means large outside broadcast trucks that are equipped like a full broadcast station – with a huge number of cameras, camera staff, on-field staff, the people behind the scenes doing the mixing the editing, producing, audio and more. It is a huge investment for such a lot of technology that’s going to be switched on for a short period of time and them moved and switched on again somewhere else a few days later. However, with cloud production you have the ability to put the minimal amount of technology at the venue and then use cloud resources to connect remotely. This will save significant time and money.

Miljenko Logozar: We are now working to introduce cloud-based capabilities into our workflows and new hybrid cloud deployment models for our global news production infrastructure to help drive even greater global collaboration and operational efficiency across the enterprise.

How can media companies make sure that they are equipped for this new future?
John Ive: They need to challenge the status quo. They need to be prepared to look at their staff and working practices with a totally open mind – figuring out how they can embrace cloud technology in order to stay relevant. Sadly, I think we are going to see some casualties because there are lots of organisations who are in denial about change, and some that have an obligation to a legacy which has to be maintained – one which is costing them a lot of money and is making them less competitive. As Netflix is proving, traditional over the air broadcasting is, in the longer-term, not going to be the major source of delivery. Cloud services and internet delivery will become the norm.

Miljenko Logozar: The only way to succeed it to implement the flexible cloud-based tools that are now necessary to succeed in such a challenging operating environment. For Al Jazeera in particular, we are positioned to expand both horizontally and vertically to accommodate our business demands. Unified workflows are central to this success – having the accessibility to be able to find what we need instantly. These workflows need to be enhanced, simple and user friendly. Our ultimate goal is to have a completely virtual newsroom where we can report from absolutely anywhere. The cloud is at the crux of this vision. 

Tony Emerson: They are already starting by moving parts of their workflow into the cloud. But it is early days. A mindset change needs to happen for real change to occur. Media companies need to hire more people who are willing to break through the old television engineering wall. A growth mindset is absolutely necessary – people need to think about how something can happen, how we can accomplish something and how we can make a customer happy.



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