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Inter-company content exchange for the modern media supply chain: An explainer

Rick Clarson, chief strategy officer at Signiant, explains why moving highly sensitive, large, complex data sets between companies requires a new approach.

In today’s media industry, moving large amounts of content swiftly and securely between partners is mission critical. Automated, inter-company content exchange, between companies of all sizes and geographies, is critical in the production and even more so in the distribution of dynamic and diverse films, television shows, video games, OTT/VoD assets, and their associated components and metadata at multiple points in the supply chain and across a myriad of platforms.

A fundamental truth today is that no organisation is an island. Sports leagues work with broadcasters and media rights licensees around the world; studios distribute content to cinemas, TV stations and cable operators, VoD platforms, and OTT platforms; an army of game developers and testers around the world work together to produce blockbuster gaming experiences. This is not possible without robust and secure content exchange that can work both within and between companies.

Moving and accessing content between teams within an organisation can be a challenge in and of itself. Being able to do so across diverse organisations only magnifies the complexity. Given the status of the industry in 2020, inter-company operations are the norm and companies need to be able to quickly and seamlessly exchange content securely — that is a must.

Inter-company content exchange: global partnerships, local content

M&E enterprises know there are growing needs and business drivers that require partnerships to ensure the creation and distribution of their content. The increased demand for localised content on a variety of new platforms further demonstrates the need for connected partnerships across a vast and complex supply chain. Whether it’s the need to produce content for distribution on a global scale or a sports league delivering highlights to a network of broadcast partners, media businesses naturally find themselves more and more interconnected, their ecosystem more and more symbiotic, and the demand to move content more and more essential. That this already tangled web now includes an explosion of different formats and platforms (theatres, streaming sites, mobile media applications) only puts greater pressure on organisations to develop adaptable and secure inter-company content exchange.

Optimising distribution

Today M&E enterprises are able to distribute their content globally across multiple different platforms and providers making inter-company transfer more important than ever before. Whether it’s a VoD platform delivering content to cable operators, film distribution houses sending DCPs to cinemas, or television networks moving content into playout, modern distribution requires a highly connected supply chain supported by automated, inter-company transfer.

Follow-the-sun game development

Or, consider a game developer working with a different studio on their latest blockbuster title. As teams at one organisation make changes to the build they’re focused on, their partners must be able to trust that they’ll regularly receive the updated version of the game, so that they don’t suddenly find the hours of work they just put in was on an outdated version. This is especially required with follow-the-sun workflows that rely on teams across multiple time-zones. Making sure the correct version of a game build is where it needs to be when the next people sit down to execute their jobs is vital to streamlining complicated supply chains, meeting deadlines (especially in an industry well-known for major last-minute tweaking), and keeping, what might otherwise look like chaos, ordered and effectual.

Complex data sets such as frame-by-frame formats

While automated, inter-company exchange happens more often during aggregation and distribution, it can also be a challenge during the content creation process. When post production studios and VFX houses work on a major blockbuster, they’ll often work with frame-by-frame formats such as DPX or EXR. In these cases, folders with millions of files need to be moved back to a studio or even to another post production house, also in a follow-the-sun fashion. Standard tools struggle with these complex data sets and so the right software to automate these workflows becomes essential.

Connecting the largest media businesses with their SMB partners

One challenge plaguing the industry is that advanced technology used by large companies isn’t always accessible to the network of smaller suppliers vital to the industry. Advancements in cloud technology, specifically SaaS solutions, help break down those barriers, offering smaller businesses powerful tools to participate more easily in the global supply chain. The security challenges are magnified when working with multiple companies, many of which are small. Having a common set of tools to meet the high security standards required by today’s industry is not a luxury, but a requirement. Not only must the tools secure the content they exchange, they must be easy to deploy, manage, and be right-sized and priced to be adopted by any size business. 

How Signiant facilitates inter-company content exchange

Signiant has long been the trusted broker for cross-company content exchange in the industry. Our Manager+Agents product is used by the world’s top media companies for automated content exchange both within and between companies. Our Media Shuttle product allows people to access and share content around the world and now connects more than 25,000 businesses of all sizes.

When we launched Signiant Jet last year, we brought together our expertise in automated system-to-system file movement with our leadership in cloud-native SaaS. That made Signiant’s advanced automation and acceleration technology accessible to companies of all sizes and significantly reduced the friction for the largest media companies in the world in setting up automated content exchange with their smaller partners.

Earlier this year, Signiant expanded its inter-company capabilities, adding a lightweight but secure mechanism to Jet for automated content exchange between companies. With this, two companies that both have Jet can easily and securely set-up a cross trust, managed entirely from the cloud. In addition, with more and more businesses adopting Jet, companies can make their endpoints discoverable in our cloud platform further facilitating these inter-company exchanges.

Once a cross-trust is in place between two companies, they can set up mutually agreed upon transfer jobs where each side is able to maintain complete control of their own storage and their own networks. No sharing of passwords or other sensitive information is required as the handshake is all managed securely in the cloud. This is a key benefit and differentiator of Signiant’s patented hybrid SaaS platform where the cloud control plane offers orchestration, visibility and access control but content moves directly from one company’s storage to the other.

Inter-company content exchange for the modern era

The media and entertainment industry has never been more diverse, more global, or more dynamic than it is today, and this trend will only accelerate. The pandemic and its impact on the industry shows the need to be flexible, nimble, and able to connect to larger and more diverse supply chains. So what do you need to consider to prepare you for the next industry-impacting event?

Moving highly sensitive, large, complex data sets between companies in the modern era requires a new approach. It requires software that can work for any-sized business, that can take advantage of whatever bandwidth is available, and can work with any storage type. It must provide enterprise-grade security and visibility; a solution that offers reliability when deadlines are tight and conditions are stressful. It must be easy to deploy and operate and allow companies to be agile and respond to the dynamic nature of the industry. Signiant Jet with its inter-company capabilities was designed exactly to meet those needs.