The media industry is changing at an unprecedented pace. Shifting trends around where and how consumers view content has permanently disrupted the traditional landscape, with streaming platforms taking a leading position within the industry. Furthermore, a complicated economic environment is keeping pressure on media companies to innovate if they are to succeed despite the challenges they face.
The pace and direction of change are unlikely to change soon, suggests Simon Crownshaw, worldwide strategy director for media and entertainment at Microsoft.
“There will be a continuation of the move towards digital and away from traditional media,” he predicts. “Traditional media outlets will continue to face challenges in maintaining their audience, and their influence and impact will likely be lessened. However, I think there will still be a place for those outlets, just as there’s still a place for radio despite there now being podcasts, and the marketplace will remain diverse.”
However, it is the emergence of artificial intelligence that appears likely to become the most transformative development in the near future. AI technology is now improving exponentially, with new uses emerging all the time, including within the media industry. For Microsoft and its media partners, the road to 2030 therefore promises the realisation of a new world of solutions powered by AI. As a leader in the development of AI services, Microsoft is exploring what new capabilities media companies might be able to unlock with the help of this technology.
“AI is the most exciting and expansive conversation we’ve ever had,” says Crownshaw. “Platform creation, customer engagement and technological advancement represent three amazing pillars that Microsoft can drive going forward, backed by the cloud and AI. Our goal is to empower every organisation and every person on the planet to do more, and what I see is that our AI services are allowing us to do that more than ever before. It’s a co-pilot, augmenting human behaviours and interactions, and it’s a truly revolutionary tool that I believe will change entertainment forever.”
Among the most significant areas of AI transformation will be in the automation of media workflows. Tasks that previously required significant time and effort to achieve can be drastically streamlined with the help of AI, which Crownshaw sees as augmenting the existing capabilities of creators to allow them to maximise their creativity.
“Automation is probably a place where we’ll see the most rapid change, likely in the next two or three years,” he says. “By 2030, media workflows will have been fundamentally revolutionised, with maturing automation enabling rapid content creation and engagement in every corner of media without any loss in quality. While there’ll be some scepticism on the side of the creators initially, what it will give them is a way to create content that they could only ever have imagined. It’s like having an army of people working on it for them, giving them capabilities they’ve never had before. If you couple that with the cloud, it makes the benefits even more tangible than ever before.”
With such capabilities powering and enhancing media platforms, Crownshaw predicts that long-held ambitions for media transformation could be realised.
“If media platforms are the new operating model regardless of whether you sell that platform to business or fans, and those platforms are connecting people to content, then AI in media has finally caused a tipping point for transformation over 40 years in the making,” he says. “As we move towards 2030, we will see unrelenting change for business and technology. Data will get better, more real time, and lead to better decision making and make the future of spatial computing entertainment get here faster.”
Crownshaw’s optimism about the potential for transformation by 2030 is reflected in the way Microsoft is working with its partners. The company is highlighting the advantages for organisations in learning about and using AI technology as soon as possible, rather than taking a cautious approach.
“I’m encouraging all of our customers to get off the sidelines,” says Crownshaw. “Get involved, test it out, try and understand which areas it can help them in. If they can do things in a more efficient, cost-effective way that still gives an amazing output, then why say no to that? I think the customers who move all in on this first will see the biggest benefit, because they’ll be able to train their systems to become better and do more over time. With AI, Microsoft is providing an unmissable reason to bring all corners of media to the cloud to take advantage of the technology and gain differentiation and productivity that will be a corner stone of media strategies moving forward.”
Both new entrants and large, established media organisations will therefore be looking to secure the advantage in the race for AI in the coming years. For small startups, this represents a chance to break into the market with exciting new content at a scale they would never previously have been able to match, while large organisations will be pushed to consider how they need to adapt to make full use of the potential benefits.
“Both large and small organisations will see the same advances as we move towards 2030, but they’ll have their own complexities around how they implement the new technologies,” says Crownshaw. “A new startup entering this environment can take advantage of AI and the cloud to grow 10 times faster and put out content in ways they never could have before. Larger companies face a challenge to find the necessary flexibility to implement AI into their workflows and processes. It takes organisation and a culture of innovation to bring that vision to life, but once they do, businesses can expect to see the same, transformative streamlining in how they produce content.”
Whether it’s AI, the cloud or another transformative technology shaping the media landscape by 2030, Microsoft is listening to the needs of its media customers and partners as it continues to support the industry into the future.
“What Microsoft is doing is really resonating with customers,” says Crownshaw. “We’re not telling the industry what to do with these new technologies, we’re working with key stakeholders to find a way of using them that works well. We’re understanding the way that customers want to tell their stories because, in the end, storytelling is what the media industry is all about.”
Analyst and partner perspectives
We talked with media experts to learn their perspectives on how the industry will have been transformed by 2030 and asked Microsoft partners to showcase the transformative new solutions they are developing that will shape the media landscape in the near future.
“I suspect the media industry in 2030 will be more dynamic and a lot less consolidated. The resurgence of anti-trust scrutiny and regulation coupled with the dismal results of recent media mergers will motivate spin-offs, divestitures and new participants,” said Joshua Stinehour, principal analyst at Devoncroft Partners.
“Studios and creators are looking for more effective tools and interoperable cloud workflows and are following the MovieLabs 2030 Vision roadmap to leverage technologies such as real-time engines and AI to enable efficiency and more time for creatives,” says Leon Silverman, advisor of the 2030 Vision and of strategy and industry relations at MovieLabs.
“NVIDIA and Microsoft have long partnered in media and entertainment for remote production workflows and cloud rendering. Now, studios can unlock real-time, full-fidelity content collaboration with NVIDIA Omniverse Cloud,” says Rick Champagne, director of global media and entertainment at NVIDIA.
“The over-the-top delivery model – which is almost certainly the future of video services – depends on having excellent security,” says Olga Kornienko, chief operations officer and co-founder at EZDRM. “Microsoft’s digital rights management solutions, like PlayReady, have set a high bar in the field of media content security and specialist video security services providers such as EZDRM leverage these technologies to deliver robust, scalable and easy-to-integrate cloud service offerings for the information and entertainment marketplaces.”
“By incorporating Microsoft technologies and leveraging the capabilities of Microsoft Azure, Ateme is empowering content providers, streaming platforms and TV operators with video encoding and delivery solutions,” says Ricardo Minari, director of global partnerships at Ateme. “This enables them to deliver immersive and tailored content experiences to audiences worldwide while staying ahead of the game in the rapidly evolving media and entertainment industry.”
“We use Microsoft Azure cloud technologies to deploy broadcast networks in scalable, reliable, and expansive ways, allowing broadcasters and media companies to achieve more with their existing infrastructure,” says Geeter Kyrazis, chief strategy officer at SwXtch.io. “That includes the ability to create new entertainment channels, business opportunities, and marketing methods.”
Read more from these analysts and partners as well as Advvy and Signiant in the Summer 2023 issue of Technology Record.