As the media technology industry slowly begins to emerge from lockdown, in Europe at least, what conclusions can be drawn from how the sector dealt with the impact?
Certainly, it can be argued that lockdown has seen the industry fully embrace Cloud as a way of continuing to create content.
OWNZONES CEO Dan Goman talks to Jenny Priestley about the challenges of the past few months, and what the future holds.
How have the past few months been for Ownzones?
The past few months at OWNZONES have been busy, in large part due to the pandemic. The industry has seen a substantial surge in demand for content while folks have been at home, but content creators have had to face the shutting down of their on-prem facilities. In response, we’ve been helping content companies transition operations to the Cloud and in some cases, implement OWNZONES Connect as a Disaster Recovery solution, shifting their workflows to the Cloud in order to help them maintain business continuity during this challenging time.
How has the company been impacted by lockdown?
Because our solutions are built natively in the Cloud, our regular operations have been virtually unaffected by the lockdown. Our platforms OWNZONES Connect and OWNZONES Discover are well-suited for remote workflows-all a user needs in order to access the platforms is a laptop and a browser. So, the transition to remote working has been fairly seamless. This has allowed us to focus on lending our services to more clients in need of cloud- based supply chain solutions.
What have you heard from customers in terms of changes they’ve had to make due to the pandemic?
The main factor that prohibited studios and post houses from maintaining business operations due to the pandemic was the fact that their assets, programmes, and tool sets were all located on-prem in facilities that they could no longer access. In addition, since production has all but halted, broadcasters were forced to turn to their archives in order to fill content schedules.
Studios with large content libraries were sitting on huge archives that could be monetised if they had the right solution that enabled remote-working. We have been helping these customers automatically conform and consolidate their content with our AI-based tools as part of a larger migration of their content and workflows to the Cloud so that they can continue to move content along the supply chain. After getting their content into the Cloud, our customers have expressed that they love the Connect capability of push-button delivery to hundreds of different endpoints, whether those are broadcasters, OTT platforms, or other fulfilment partners.
What impact do you think the pandemic will have on the media tech industry over the next 12-18 months?
The entire industry is essentially now using the Cloud in some form to collaborate, be productive, and work efficiently. When the dust settles and we all get back to work, folks will sit down to ask what worked and what are the lessons. Most certainly, there will be an industry-wide shift away from on-premise infrastructure to the Cloud. Almost all of our customers are now looking for Cloud-based content servicing and supply chain platforms that offer a flexible implementation model as either a wholesale replacement or the augmentation of existing infrastructure and workflows.
Do you think the lockdown will accelerate the move to Cloud workflows rather than technology remaining on-prem?
Absolutely, and it already has. Cloud adoption has skyrocketed. In the next 12 months, that adoption will only continue to rise. It’s interesting to note that C-level conversations are now about when the Cloud transition will happen as opposed to if – and in some cases, we are hearing that insurance carriers are forcing their customers to the Cloud as a condition of their insurance coverage. The Cloud has been instrumental in maintaining business processes and this trend will persist throughout the next year. While some companies may initially attempt to transition back to their traditional on-prem workflows once things return to “normal,” most will realise that they never want to be caught unprepared in this position again, and they’ll transition their systems and workflows to the Cloud so that they remain productive and successful if the lights go out again in the future. Rising adoption will mean advancements in innovative Cloud technology that the market hasn’t seen before.
During lockdown, Ownzones won a Best of Show Special Edition Award for your new SaaS platform Connect. Can you tell us more about the platform and who it is aimed at?
OWNZONES Connect is a content servicing and supply chain platform built in the Cloud. The Cloud-native platform is aimed at content creators and owners who are looking to take advantage of the cost savings and workflow efficiencies of the Cloud while simultaneously automating their production, distribution, and archival workflows through a suite of best-in-breed microservices. Such microservices include tools like FrameDNA, which consolidates content versions in the Cloud; Deep Analysis, which analyses media and identifies various layout/formatting elements; and the Metadata Service, which dynamically maps asset metadata onto the requirements for endless different platform endpoints. We’re immensely proud of our entire team for bringing this solution to the market that is constantly innovating the content supply chain.
Ownzones Connect offers IMF support. What are you hearing from customers about IMF adoption? Is it something they’re preparing for now because it’s imminent, or do they see it as futureproofing?
The industry has arrived at a point where there is consensus around IMF adoption. It’s not a question of if; it’s a question of how fast they can make the transition. We’re seeing that customers are adopting IMF for both reasons—because it’s imminent and it futureproofs. With IMF, there is significantly less mastered data to store, manage, and transfer, which drastically reduces costs and versioning headaches. Our customers are leveraging IMF for both production deliveries and archival purposes due to the flexibility that it offers. Many studios and post houses are benefiting today from a built-in DR solution by consolidating their content versions in the Cloud while also monetising versions easier and faster than ever.
We have a customer today that builds IMF packages with Connect to deliver directly into the Netflix Backlot entirely in the Cloud via API, which shaves several hours off their delivery timelines. We also have a customer that leverages IMF in conjunction with FrameDNA in order to consolidate their media library into lightweight IMF packages and reduce Cloud storage costs by two-thirds. By storing content in the form of IMF packages and leveraging our proprietary tools, not only can studios and post houses save 73 per cent on average in Cloud storage costs, but they also have the ability to render localised versions of different titles on the fly.
What do you think is the next big thing our industry will be discussing? We thought it would be remote production, but lockdown seems to have accelerated it into the mainstream. So, what’s the next big topic?
While the lockdown has certainly accelerated the conversation around remote production, we are still very far from it being reality. Remote production will most likely be a decade long conversation when you consider how difficult it is to break from on-premise infrastructure for things like editing, VFX, and sound. Having said that, a very compelling topic is the idea of leveraging consumer data and other big data sets to inform production decisions. For example, a director might change the length of an episode based on consumer data that shows if episode X is less than 15 minutes, it is 40 per cent more likely that the end users will watch the whole series, and then they shoot it or edit it differently as a result of this data.
What does the future hold for OWNZONES?
OWNZONES has only just begun to solve complex problems for content creators. Today, our products are focused on reinventing supply chain basics such as encoding, packaging, and distribution stages of the digital supply chain. However, we are exploring several opportunities to continue to evolve and innovate as cloud-based workflows become more entrenched in production and post-production. Our core technologies are equally relevant to other parts of the digital supply chain that we do not currently serve. We look to using the cloud to globally connect more parts of the workflow and enable creatives to collaborate wherever they are in the world.