When OpenAI’s ChatGPT launched in November 2022, it fired the imagination of millions. The freely available chatbot tool, operating on a Microsoft Azure infrastructure, offered a glimpse of what a future with artificial intelligence could hold, and by January 2023, it had become the fastest growing web application of all time with 100 million monthly users.
The myriad of possible applications for generative AI has since emerged. In media and communications, innovation has been rapid, with AI tools beginning to transform workflows, distribution and the process of storytelling itself.
“AI’s capabilities, from content creation to distribution and engagement, are reshaping how we conceptualise, produce and deliver content,” says Andy Beach, chief technology officer for worldwide media and entertainment at Microsoft. “It’s not just about enhancing existing processes – AI opens doors to entirely new creative possibilities and audience interactions. This transformation extends beyond efficiency gains; it’s about fundamentally reimagining storytelling, personalisation, and the very nature of audience engagement. AI is a cornerstone of the industry’s future, enabling us to craft richer experiences that are tailored to individual preferences and community dynamics.”
While AI has been used in different capacities across the telecommunications industry for many years, the release of generative AI tools capable of creating new content has been no less transformational in its impact on operations.
These include AI-powered chatbots, which can provide instant support to a business’s customers, taking the pressure off overwhelmed call centres and improving the customer experience. Elsewhere, AI algorithms can help optimise networks by automatically adjusting settings and configurations, helping to deal with what is predicted to be a rapid period of network growth in the next five years. Furthermore, as the industry tackles the significant problem of fraud – which cost the industry up to $39.9 billion in 2021 according to the Communications Fraud Control Association – AI models can detect and prevent a range of fraudulent activities before they hurt vulnerable customers.
“When OpenAI enabled anyone with an imagination to try out generative AI with ChatGPT, the results were nothing less than astounding,” says Rick Lievano, chief technology officer for worldwide telecommunications industry at Microsoft. “We could immediately see how this technology could impact a telecommunications company from the contact centre to the boardroom. Today, we’re working with telecommunications companies to infuse generative AI across their business and improve customer experiences, automate business processes, optimise network operations, and even create new services.”
A crucial component of an AI-driven future is the cloud, which plays a vital role in making AI models and the services they provide possible. AI fundamentally relies on the capabilities of the cloud to function, with the scalability, security and compliance capabilities of Microsoft Azure making it possible to build and deploy AI-enabled applications. Azure is also the only global public cloud that offers AI supercomputers with scale-up capabilities, delivering maximum performance for the most intensive AI workloads.
On the other hand, AI will also deliver a range of enhancements to cloud services, building upon the benefits that Azure already offers to the media and communications industries. While Azure currently offers a strong foundation for managing data at scale and delivering content, AI promises to unlock new and powerful insights into that data.
“With AI, we’re adding a layer of intelligence that unlocks new opportunities,” says Beach. “For the media industry, AI-driven insights enable hyper-personalised content recommendations, enhancing viewer engagement. It also allows for advanced content creation, like generating relevant metadata or even AI-powered storytelling. The convergence of Azure and AI creates a seamless ecosystem where data-driven decisions, dynamic content distribution, and enhanced audience experiences redefine the industry’s potential.”
The capabilities of Azure have enabled Microsoft to be at the forefront of developing a wide range of new AI-powered tools and services. One example is Azure AI, a portfolio of AI solutions designed to enable developers and data scientists to create their own solutions using pre-built application programming interfaces, including models from OpenAI.
Another offering is Microsoft Copilot, an AI assistant feature that builds on OpenAI’s model for use in Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, Bing and other cloud products. Telecommunications company Lumen is already making use of Microsoft 365 Copilot, which it tested across its operations as part of the Early Access Program. Lumen’s customer service teams use Copilot to find policies that apply to a customer’s query, or quickly access step-by-step repair instructions from manuals. Sales and customer experience teams, meanwhile, use Copilot to summarise their actions and next steps in customer interactions. Teams across the company are also using Copilot to create presentations and business proposals, helping to maintain a consistent brand experience.
“Giving our workforce the digital tools they need to deliver dramatically improved customer experiences with greater ease is an essential part of our company transformation,” said Kate Johnson, president and CEO of Lumen Technologies. “Our people are seeing immediate productivity improvements with Copilot, allowing them to focus on more value-added activities each day.”
AI capabilities are also making a significant impact in media content delivery, Beach explains.
“In the realm of video streaming, AI-driven content recommendation engines personalise viewer experiences, increasing engagement and retention,” he says. “For live events, AI-powered, real-time transcription and translation services enable global audiences to access content in their preferred language. In advertising, AI optimises ad placements based on viewer preferences and behaviour, maximising revenue potential. These examples showcase how AI tools are revolutionising content delivery by tailoring experiences, expanding accessibility, and optimising monetisation strategies across the media landscape.”
AI-driven tools could also make the overall benefits of the cloud a more accessible option for organisations of all sizes by removing some of the obstacles that have stood in the way of cloud migration. While previously the cost, time and complexity involved in moving operations to the cloud has proved to be prohibitive for some companies, Beach suggests this is about to change.
“One major hurdle for media companies in moving to the cloud has been content migration and management,” he says. “However, AI-driven tools can automate content tagging, categorisation and metadata enrichment, making the migration process faster and more accurate. Additionally, AI streamlines complex workflows, optimising resource utilisation and minimising operational inefficiencies. Overall, AI simplifies the cloud migration journey, ensuring seamless integration, scalability and improved cost management, which are vital for media companies embracing a cloud-first approach.”
Both Beach and Lievano predict that AI models will continue to develop and improve as they are used more widely across media and communications, completely transforming both industries in the process.
“Continued investment in foundation models, responsible AI and specialised hardware will enable innovative new use cases that will transform every facet of our business,” says Lievano. “There will be opportunities across a telecommunication company’s entire business, but it’s most exciting to see how generative AI will impact every person by dramatically boosting their productivity thanks to their Copilot assistants.”
Beach adds: “Future advancements will refine AI models to grasp emotions, context and intricate content aspects. This collective progress will redefine media by fostering creative innovation, enhancing audience engagement, and enabling data-driven decision-making. As AI integrates further into media operations, the industry is poised for a future where content resonates more deeply, engagement is elevated, and responsive insights guide evolution.”
We asked Microsoft partners how they are using AI tools and services from Microsoft to help improve their ability to create and deliver their services.
“Incorporating AI tools from Microsoft is helping empower Ateme’s competitive technological agility, including the use of AI to optimise video compression,” says Mickaël Raulet, chief technology officer at Ateme. “This innovation improves our encoders’ performance and adds high-value functionalities.”
“Infosys has been working with AI models that, when powered by Azure and Microsoft 365, can deliver innovative and intelligent experiences that are the mainstay for content creators,” says Senthil Pakkiam Koman, principal consultant of Microsoft practice at Infosys. “With the unprecedented scalability of AI, we are investing in ‘closer to human’ conversational bots that support different formats, platforms, and dialects taking the experience to the next level in the media and communication industry.”
Read more from these partners as well as SwXtch.io and Tiger Technology in the Autumn 2023 issue of Technology Record.