How the cloud is driving success for media firms

Bob De Haven, Microsoft’s general manager of worldwide communications and media, explains how media firms like Disney are embracing the cloud and outlines how he believes the industry will leverage technology in the future

Alex Smith
By Alex Smith on 17 January 2020
How the cloud is driving success for media firms

What are the biggest changes that you’ve witnessed in the communication and media industry over the past few years?
I think the biggest thing is the acceptance of cloud technology. Four years ago, nobody was willing to entertain it. The hacking of Sony had just happened and there was a lot of discussion about how secure the cloud really was. What amazes me is how quickly things have changed – cloud is now part of the mainstream. Everyone is jumping onboard for a cloud-based approach when looking to solve business or workflow problems.

How far has the industry progressed in its digital transformation? Is there still work to be done?
There’s a lot of work to be done, but some great progress has already been made. Our recent announcement with The Walt Disney Studios is a good example. Its production team wants to move its entire process – from actual filming all the way to the distribution inside the theatres – to the cloud. Read more in our cover story on page 30. 

It’s a pretty dramatic change, but we’re just at the beginning stages of the process. The media space is so different from the telecommunications space or the retail space. There are many independent software vendors (ISVs) that do different pieces of the production, and the challenge is to get all of them on to one cloud or one blockchain operation. We laid out all the bespoke processes that Disney Studios go through, and there’s around 70 to 80 screen ISV processes they use. We then have to go out and port all 70 of those to one cloud – Microsoft Azure. So, we still have a long way to go in my estimation. 

But the relationship has exposed massive opportunities to take cost out of the system, not only in the content creation and production phases but, in the future, in the distribution phase as well. Disney Studios releases many movies every year, and the cost of getting each one to the theatres is significant. A film can’t currently be shipped in one go in case somebody steals it. So instead Disney Studios has to separately ship smaller pieces of the movie and reconnect it all in the theatre. With 5G, that process could become as simple as pushing a button. You put a device in a theatre and the movie plays using 5G, with the whole process being entirely encrypted. That’s just a simple thing that would result in a massive change to an industry.

Specifically looking at the year ahead, what further changes can we expect?
The biggest thing coming is the potential for regulatory issues for the big cloud providers, particularly in the EU. Already, several cloud vendors have had some large fines against them, one in the EU and one in the US. Since some of the business models of the cloud providers are based upon getting information from their customers, then leveraging that information to build additional business cases, any change in the regulation of that data is going to have a dramatic impact on them. 

For Microsoft, however, the way in which we treat privacy is a key differentiator for the company. When it comes to encryption, we don’t even keep the encryption keys. They go to whoever the data belongs to. But we have got a lot of big data, and we’re good at anonymising that data and then presenting it in a way that’s legally useable for everyone else in the world. So, I think it’s a change that’s going to bode well for us. 

What emerging technology are you most excited about?
Video indexing is unbelievably powerful. The risk of placing an advert in the wrong video is a significant one. It’s about protecting a company’s brand. 

So, when I was at the Cannes Lions event, the discussion was about whether we could ingest all our content, then run a video index through it. We could then find any controversial material before clearing all the acceptable videos for advertisers. Think about how much money that would save a brand.

As an example of the potential of this technology, there was a case in which a large content provider in Germany indexed its whole library, dating back to the 1930s. As it turned out, it had content of world leaders earlier in their life, making public speeches. There was a local news broadcast of Martin Luther King in 1961, a video that nobody had ever seen before. And without video indexing, it may have never been uncovered. The solutions this kind of technology drives just keep getting bigger and bigger, and at every event I attend I see people using it a little differently. 

This article was originally published in the Winter 2019 issue of The RecordSubscribe for FREE here to get the next issues delivered directly to your inbox.

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