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‘There’s a lot more acceptance of the cloud and a lot less fear’

Globecast's Ian Redgewell explains how the power of the cloud is leading to a true operational paradigm shift as well as opening up new ways of working and thinking

The cloud, and the rapidly increasing use of it across the media and entertainment space, has dominated headlines for some time now. Indeed, for many we may be reaching saturation point in this regard. But the cloud, and the transitions it’s powering, are worth discussing and explaining as this is a true operational paradigm shift and it opens up new ways of working and thinking. 

Approximately 18 months ago, Globecast began a detailed strategic process, using the huge amount of knowledge 30 years as a media services provider brings, to explore the market and fully understand the challenges customers face across their digital transformations. The result is four key strategic growth initiatives: media supply chain; OTT ecosystems; remote production; and digital platforms. 

While these are clearly separate subsectors, there’s one common technical theme that underpins this and that’s the use of the cloud. Of course, our use of the cloud isn’t new, but the scale and depth of use is, as it is with many of our customers. So where are we at with this transformation as a global media services supplier and where are our customers at with it?

Pre-Covid, we were helping customers move their content into the cloud. Now, we’re helping them move their broadcast workflows into the cloud. What the cloud brings is very quick time-to-market for service launches and great flexibility to add/amend those services, or to create pop-up services as and when required. This is important in helping test new markets and new content ideas quickly and cost-effectively. 

What we see from our customers is there’s now a lot more acceptance of the cloud and a lot less fear. Because of this, customers really aren’t concerned with whether it’s cloud or on premise as long as they get the service they pay for from us at a price that suits them. Whether it’s in the cloud or not is not top of their list of priorities. Strategically, cloud use may be beneficial to them because they are operating – at least partially – in the cloud and in terms of inputs/outputs, it suits them. They are buying a service – or services – from us and as long as we deliver absolutely the service that we have defined with them, it’s not a concern for them.

Our strategy is to move everything to the cloud, apart from some obvious exceptions – for example, a satellite uplink requires a satellite dish – so we still need to have teleports. And there are some customers that aren’t quite ready for the cloud, so we may have to come out of it and use a more traditional, physical approach to get what we need from them. That still happens. The less physical boxes that we have running, the better. 

Working closely with AWS – we announced earlier this year we joined the AWS Partner Network, extending our reach with them – gives us the cloud power that we and our customers need.  

There’s considerable technical work required on top of this to create the services, and GUIs, that we need. As an example, it’s vital our operations people be able to configure a given service – Globecast Managed Cloud Network (MCN) is a prime example of this, to which I will return – quickly and easily using a simple GUI. A lot of current focus is to ensure that our operators in our MCRs – or working remotely – have a simple interface with which to interact. 

All of the playout channels we operate are cloud-based now, even if for distribution they have to come out of the cloud to go to a traditional satellite uplink: the backend processing is in the cloud.

We’re far along the process of moving all relevant processes into the cloud. We started by identifying the processes that we could move first and that was largely around media management and where we’re working across file storage and processing, including things like VoD logistics and cloud playout. Driven by customer demand, now we’re moving into wider signal distribution via the cloud. We’ve sold services where customers are shutting down their satellite distribution and moving to IP and we need the cloud to do that. 

We’re seeing growth in adhoc distribution in this regard. Say you have a season of a particular sports championship to cover that takes place at various locations globally. A given customer no longer wants to simply distribute that to, say, Europe via satellite as they don’t want to bear that cost nor be limited to that footprint. They want to be able to distribute it via the internet to other global takers. We can do that now and that’s gaining a lot of traction with different sports content providers/rights holders. That IP distribution may be instead of, or alongside, satellite. This also applies to adhoc news services.

Cloud playout and our VoD services – which fall under the wider bracket of media supply chain – are mature now and we do this in all our major regions – Hallmark Media in the US and Virgin TV Ultra HD spring immediately to mind. 

Then there’s our Managed Cloud Network service, which highlights the advantages of cloud use. This allows content providers to select very precisely what affiliates/takers receive which content – which parts of an event they want to air – and they can select as little or as much, depending on the rights, without the need for any fibre or satellite connectivity. Equidia, the PMU-owned, France-based horse racing channel, is using MCN for precisely this. It has deployed Globecast MCN in order to expand the amount of content available and to easily select which affiliates receive what content. It provides Equidia with cost-effective, secure, cloud-based distribution. Using a simple and clear UI, the channel can easily add new affiliates and can modify feeds to them and existing customers on a rights-held basis, even per race, without the additional cost of more fibre or satellite capacity. It’s also low latency, which is vital for horse racing as most bets are placed in the last 10 seconds prior to the start of the race. This system maximises monetisation while minimising cost.

We’re not here to dictate solutions to our customers; we’re here to understand what they are trying to achieve and then we guide them to the best technical and business solution. Cloud use is very often central to this.