By K.A. Srinivasan,
Co-founder of Amagi
The global media landscape is changing rapidly with the advent of new technologies and evolving audience needs. The boundaries are blurring between the traditional TV broadcast and new-age platforms like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix. Also, as the millennial generation takes over the mantle of largest audience group, the geographical demarcation of content might also vanish. For example, a U.S. politics-focused drama such as “House of Cards” or, for that matter, “Game of Thrones,” today has a substantial audience following in countries outside the U.S. To keep up with this changing reality, TV broadcasters and content owners need to scale up rapidly and make their content available simultaneously across platforms. Unfortunately, traditional, physical data center-oriented playout services might not be fully equipped to respond to the scale and speed requirements of such transition. Apart from this, the traditional services come at
higher costs owing to their capex exposure and higher opex driven by physical, manual, and people-intensive operating models. What’s more, most of these traditional managed services have operations that are opaque, offering clients no real-time insights into or control over their broadcasts. So, TV networks are left to make programming adjustments after the fact, based on month-end reports. Further, many traditional managed broadcast service providers fall short of expertise to deliver both TV and OTT playout services under one roof, leaving broadcasters further constrained just as multiscreen viewing is catching fire.
Replacing traditional managed broadcast services with a cloud-managed approach can overcome many of these limitations. By implementing an end-to-end managed services platform in the public/private cloud that encompasses content preparation, channel playout, content delivery, and monetization for both linear TV and OTT, broadcasters can scale up rapidly and deliver content innovatively.
Automated, Full-Service Content Preparation
Today, one of the biggest challenges to rapidly expanding broadcast operations is content segmentation. Preparing playout-ready content from thousands of hours of audio-video content is a labor-intensive process. Moving the content to the cloud makes it possible to integrate new-age cognitive capabilities and machine-learning techniques to reduce human intervention wherever possible, thereby driving scalability and increasing broadcast efficiencies. It also eliminates technical challenges such as converting content from one format to other. Unlike traditional managed service providers, a cloud-based broadcast platform also provides complete visibility into the status of content assets in real time.
Besides the benefit of automating manual and error-prone processes, a cloud-managed broadcast platform gives TV networks a wide choice of third-party service providers and on-demand infrastructure — everything from postproduction services, subtitle creation, and channel branding, to storage and archiving — to make the content playout-ready.
In a traditional playout setup, it’s simply too complicated to retain control of playout — be it current feeds or expansion into a new region. Yet, TV networks have been locked to a physical infrastructure that is assumed to be inherently more “broadcast-grade.” However, virtualized playout has undergone an evolution, and such systems can now support premium live content and sophisticated features like advanced dynamic graphics, automated scheduling, and social media integration, among others. In fact, a virtualized playout platform can not only offer new-age 4K UHD-readiness, but also help with tactical regional playlist integration. For example, virtualized playout today can enable TV networks to merge primary and regional playlists, allowing them to selectively replace content without having to create a completely new feed or relinquish control of their main playout. This way, broadcasters can access their workflows from any remote location through a web interface and monitor the service 24/7. As a result, a virtualized playout offers unparalleled control over operations without sacrificing transparency when compared to traditional managed services.
Worldwide Content Delivery
A cloud-based managed broadcast solution also gives TV networks unprecedented flexibility to deliver content via satellite, fiber, cloud, IPTV, and OTT models. By leveraging a delivery network built on partnerships with best-in-class teleports, fiber POPs, and CDNs, such platforms cover the entire globe and can deliver content to any region, by any combination of delivery models. With all content and workflows residing on the cloud, it is much easier for broadcasters to spin up channels in any new region quickly and affordably.
With geographical, and cross-platform expansion, monetizing content is becoming trickier. New-age content platforms have a newer set of monetization challenges that cannot be resolved using traditional archaic infrastructure. For example, OTT content aggregators or virtual MVPDs today have a substantial volume of subscribers. However, they find it difficult to create additional revenue streams by remonetizing existing ad spots. This is primarily due to insufficient information pertaining to ad spots and corresponding ad markers in input feeds, making OTT aggregators totally dependent on the broadcasters for such information. A cloud-managed service can easily integrate with next-gen ad-mining systems to detect ads in the source feed, thereby enabling the OTT aggregators to monetize untapped ad inventory.
For a linear broadcast setup, a TV network could partner with regional ad networks and selectively allow them to insert local ads, improving the advertising relevance for the audience. A cloud-managed service is better positioned to deliver this level of technological sophistication while keeping the costs low, and offer broadcasters greater flexibility and control over their ad inventory.
Traditional managed service providers’ archaic systems and lack of innovation are adding needless expense and limiting the possibilities for TV networks. On the other hand, future-ready cloud technologies add advanced automation to accelerate broadcast workflows, provide complete transparency, and make it absolutely simple to launch and operate channels. By leaving traditional services behind and embracing the cloud, TV networks can open a new world of opportunity for expansion and operational efficiency.
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