Race for the future: how AI and the cloud is transforming the media industry

Race for the future: how AI and the cloud is transforming the media industry


Simon Crownshaw explains how Microsoft is staying ahead of the pack by investing in innovation 

Alex Smith |

Generative artificial intelligence has been riding on the crest of a wave of innovation as new and improved applications have been developed at a rapid pace. From chatbots and speech recognition to predictive analytics and image generation, the technology is promising to make an impact on a variety of different sectors. Such is the importance of AI to the future of business that, according to Bloomberg Intelligence’s 2023 Generative AI Growth report, the market for AI solutions could grow to almost $1.3 trillion by 2032, compared to just $40 billion in 2022.  

The change AI might bring has captured the public imagination. In the media industry, the prospect of AI automating elements of the creative process has grabbed headlines. Yet according to Simon Crownshaw, worldwide strategy director of media and entertainment for Microsoft, the focus is beginning to shift to less dramatic but more impactful innovations. 

“We’ve moved beyond the initial fervour of positioning AI as the focal point of all endeavours, entering a phase dedicated to unravelling its practical applications,” says Crownshaw. “Our current emphasis is on achieving operational efficiency across both enterprise and media workflows with customers and their data. When it comes to tasks like metadata creation, highlights or summaries, AI can make a big impact in the media industry. AI also has the potential to make media more available to a broad variety of people across the world through rapid translation, subtitling and captions. We’re showcasing what can be done with the technology, and the pace of development in these areas is exponential.” 

Microsoft is among the leading providers of AI services, having chosen to invest early in the technology and forming a key partnership with ChatGPT creator OpenAI. Yet as the demand for AI services grows, the boom in interest is laying down an innovation challenge. It’s one that Microsoft is prepared to meet, says Crownshaw. 

“We’re seeing demand across our portfolio of products, which have broad applicability across many different industries, including media and communications,” says Crownshaw. “Our success during this period is going to be determined by our ability to stay at the forefront of AI innovation and offer our customers the capabilities they’re looking for. I think you can see from our partnership with OpenAI and integrations with partners such as NVIDIA that we’re continuing to invest heavily in research and development to enhance our AI products even further.” 

Simon Crownshaw

“The most successful companies will be those that consistently adapt and innovate around AI,” says Microsoft’s Simon Crownshaw

Microsoft is also committed to an ethical approach to the new technology, proactively addressing concerns that have been raised about the potential impact of AI. The company’s Copilot solutions are specifically intended to enhance the work of people, rather than replace it, explains Crownshaw.

“Understanding how AI can work well with humans is a key part of Microsoft’s philosophy,” he says. “If we can let somebody free up 40 per cent of their time because suddenly they have information and tools readily available to them through AI, they can gain hugely from an operational perspective.”

While AI may now be at the heart of many innovations, other technologies are also making an impact on the media industry. The transition towards cloud-based operations is not just providing a foundation for AI services, it’s also helping to reimagine the process of content creation, delivery and engagement. Crownshaw says new technologies can integrate and influence each other to deliver transformation.

“What we’re really talking about is an integrated microservices platform and ecosystem that enables you to go from being a fragile media company to being an agile one,” says Crownshaw. “None of these technologies can stand on their own without others to enable them. AI will influence the development of other technologies, and those technologies will conversely have an impact on AI too.”

As the media industry moves into the future, companies may uncover unexpected opportunities to take advantage of existing assets, says Crownshaw.

“More than anything, people are going to start to realise the value of their data, as more first-party data is used to train large language models,” he says. “The monetisation of that data is going to be key. I think most organisations are now in the process of investigating their data to understand where it’s located and how their overall data system looks so that they’re prepared to take full advantage of AI.”

Microsoft works closely with its customers to ensure that they can choose the right tools to meet their specific needs.

“We don’t just look at the process from a technology perspective,” says Crownshaw. “We’ll work to understand their culture, their resources, how they’re going to scale it and where it will fit within their ecosystem. I think Microsoft is very good at being a partner for our customers in not only choosing the right technology, but also supporting them in their long-term strategies. The way we’ve taken the lead in AI has showcased our ability to choose the right strategy.”

Competition to take the lead in providing solutions powered by new technology is fierce. Crownshaw believes that those companies that focus on delivering constant improvements to their solutions will be the most successful in rising above the competition.

“The landscape around AI-driven solutions over the past 12 months has been highly dynamic,” says Crownshaw. “The most successful companies will be those that consistently adapt and innovate around AI, delivering valuable solutions to customers while upholding ethical standards. What Microsoft has done in developing the Copilot solutions, taking advantage of the infrastructure and tools we have in place from the cloud, is game changing. As a result, I think we’re going to be well positioned to do an amazing job at meeting our customers’ needs. It will be interesting to see how the landscape shifts across the cloud providers and the partners who take advantage of media’s industrial revolution moment.”

Partner perspectives

We asked Microsoft partners how the latest AI technology is helping media organisations to deliver new and imaginative content 

“Accenture utilises a combination of Microsoft Modern Work, AI and Azure platforms to accelerate transformational initiatives across our internal business units and clients in the media industry,” said Matthew Edgerton, North American communications and media lead for CloudFirst Microsoft Practice at Accenture. “By building upon the Azure ecosystem, we have helped our clients with their media workloads across the full spectrum of production and enterprise functions.” 

“The media and entertainment industry is a dynamic playground, where the battle for attention and viewer engagement reaches unprecedented levels,” said Remi Beaudouin, chief strategy officer at Ateme. “Amidst this gold rush, broadcasters and streaming providers stand as fierce rivals. To thrive, they must revolutionise their relationship with customers.” 

“AI is having the biggest impact on how media organisations create content at the moment,” said Sean Wargo, vice president of market intelligence at AVIXA. “AI can generate some initial starting points for designers and can be used to keep content fresh.” 

“To provide creative and imaginative content to the public, media communications companies must comply with multiple regulatory standards, protect personal data and perform compliance checks on their cloud platforms, including Azure,” said Mark Eastman, head of global cloud alliances at Check Point Software Technologies. “So, media companies look to streamline and automate compliance with consolidated security management solutions.” 

“Creative collaboration demands the highest level of communication transparency, operating at a level where technical barriers are minimised,” said Julie Crawford, senior manager of technology partnerships at Shure. “When people know that every nuance is heard, great content ideas take shape. This requires the audio system and collaboration platform to operate as one, with pristine voice capture and reproduction that seats participants at the same virtual table.” 

Read more from these partners in the Spring 2024 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.   

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