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Every cloud-based production has a fully scalable lining

By Jim O'Neill, principal analyst, Ooyala

ITV recently announced plans to launch a streaming app to rival the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime. No one should have been surprised; broadcasters the world over have been scrambling to deliver integrated over-the-top (OTT) TV, video-on-demand, and new content experiences, to grab themselves a piece of this particular pie for some time.

The challenge now, however, is to deliver new content faster and more efficiently than ever before (and, preferably, better than the big players). Consumers have come to expect a bespoke experience when using streaming services, the offer of new, original content, and immediate delivery of that content to their television, smartphone, or any other device of their choosing – even when that content is live. To make all this feasible, cloud-based, virtualised video editing, and the implementation of IP workflows, has become crucial.

There’s been a buzz around cloud-based working in the industry for some time, but it’s only beginning to filter down to the grass roots of content production for broadcasters like ITV.

The pay-as-you-go cloud

The ability to make use of resources far beyond a company’s internal capabilities through the cloud, scaling up production to work on 4K (or even 8K) projects, for instance, is much more straight-forward and cost effective. In fact, full flexibility and scalability on projects is a primary reason cloud-based working has seen such a surge in popularity.

For starters, it means that broadcasters now only need pay for storage as a pay-as-you-go model: while that storage is in use for a specific piece of content, the production company will pay for it but once the production is finished, it can be taken down, archived, and that cost then disappears. It means that production companies can therefore more easily scale up to cater for much larger projects, without having to deal with the overhead growth of editing suites and apps. These lower costs are then reflected to the client.

Again, because of cloud-based working, production companies can access new pay-as-you-go technologies in much the same way. For example, if a particular piece of content requires a lot of rendering, production companies can then rent the technology they need to make this work via the cloud until that project is complete so that costs can be allocated per job, instead of at a swollen standard rate.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning

Now that cloud-based working has become so prominent amongst industry experts, the natural next steps to enable media businesses to maximise the potential of OTT platforms is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. For starters, AI can make more effective use of a business’ metadata so that they can map out new and undiscovered content, as well as track engagement and the turnover of existing content.

AI also can be used to extract and analyse metadata to identify video genre and content sentiment, pulling topics from speech and text to make recommendations for subscribers. This much richer metadata will be critical to using AI and machine learning effectively pre-production.

IP networking

IP also is gaining traction steadily around the world as a result of the shift to the cloud. Thus far, IP networks are predominantly being used for sporting events where most of the content is distributed live. It means production companies can work remotely to improve the quality of their coverage during, and after, the event.

With a growing number of projects producing live broadcasts of content from cities thousands of miles apart, the immediate logistical costs on freelance crews to the broadcasters are dissipated and the opportunities for broadcasters have become vast. The installation of IP-based production also means fibre cabling can be used to transport video signals without the need for a huge HD-SDI gate in order to eliminate HD-SDI/fibre optic conversion which is timely and costly.

For many broadcasters and streaming services wishing to attract new customers away from the likes of Amazon and Netflix, there’s no doubt it will be an uphill climb. However, the use of cloud-based workflows and IP technologies has the potential to offer them the competitive differentiation they need in this increasingly competitive market.