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‘To put it simply, it works’: Globecast CEO Philippe Bernard on remote workflows, cloud, and living in a hybrid world

TVBEurope sits down with Globecast chairman and CEO Philippe Bernard to discuss the move to cloud, transforming playout, and how the company has moved from a service provider to a service integrator

Since it last gathered together in Amsterdam for IBC 2019, the media industry has seen fundamental change, with much of it driven by the pandemic.

If you were to talk to vendors and broadcasters three years ago, many would say the cloud and remote production were both ‘nice to have’. Now they will tell you they are ‘must-haves’.

TVBEurope sat down with Globecast chairman and CEO Philippe Bernard to discuss how the industry has changed and what that means for the company.

The move to cloud

I’ll summarise the main developments we’ve seen happening over the past three years or so. The first point is that customers have reorganised themselves internally to be able to manage operations remotely, or parts of them remotely. Of course, the pandemic did increase the drive to put in place the tools and processes to be able to use remote workflows. This is not an easy thing to achieve. This then led to the realisation by customers that their operations can be managed this way. To put it simply, it works. 

The second point is the maturing of cloud solutions that we have all seen, especially with AWS. We announced earlier this year that we have joined the AWS Partner Network. We gradually extended our reach with AWS on the service side when we revealed our Globecast Managed Cloud Network (MCN) solution had successfully completed AWS’ Foundational Technical Review (FTR). The AWS FTR enables AWS Partners to identify and remediate risks in their products or solutions, providing specific guidelines to adopt cloud best practices designed to reduce risks around security, reliability, and operational excellence. This is defined by the AWS Well-Architected Framework.

Transforming playout

We need to operate cloud playout, media management, encryption and so on in the cloud, and integrate processing in the cloud to create the flexible and quick time-to-market services required in today’s world. So, combining the fact customers have – or are – moving to remote workflows and the power of the cloud, means that they can now look at outsourcing more operations. This also provides the ideal opportunity for customers to optimise those operations, reducing cost while increasing capabilities. Customers are now in a position to consider outsourcing their processes to a service provider that has the necessary cloud expertise, in our case combined with 30 years’ experience in providing on-premise, premium quality services. We have worked very hard to ideally position ourselves for this future.

Philippe Bernard

As an example, having launched Virgin Media’s Virgin TV Ultra HD in 2018 in the cloud – the UK’s first dedicated UHD entertainment channel – working as their technical partner, we have partnered with Hallmark in the US to playout its channels entirely in the cloud. We are doing similar for GAC Media – GAC Family and GAC Living channels – along with satellite distribution, to support both networks. We will be making another key cloud announcement with a major customer shortly. The market is clearly ready for the cloud.

For us it’s a huge transformation in the way that we operate. It requires people skilled in the development of operations, highly qualified people. This way of working leads to far greater flexibility – pop-up channels being a prime example – and, importantly, cost-effectiveness. Equally as crucial is the quality of service. 

Service provider to service integrator

For Globecast, we are, of course, a service provider but also increasingly a service integrator. We take the different service elements available via our cloud capabilities – the full media asset management suite including playout – and then add an orchestration layer that’s essential to create bespoke services for each customer. Each customer’s requirements are different, therefore the flexibility of our cloud services is vital. We work with many different partner technology suppliers to create these solutions at the premium level the market requires. 

Of course, we do still use more traditional technologies – satellite distribution is good example – as and when required and this will remain for years to come. We have all seen major pay-TV players renewing multi-year satellite distribution contracts. 

We live in a hybrid world, the production world also being a great example of this as we move further into remote production. This is happening, of course, but it’s far from universal at this point. Depending on the scale of a production, there are still questions to be asked and answered on a case-by-case basis as to what the most cost-effective way of handling a production is. At the moment, we see that for the really big tournaments, the argument for remote production is greater than with smaller scale events. We’re also experiencing increasing interest and activity in the news sector for remote production, given the distributed nature of journalists in news organisations. 

We are ready and ideally positioned. It’s been a long journey with the cloud, looking back at the last five years, and it has taken a lot of expertise and effort.