Top 10 Cloud Challenges Facing Media & Entertainment

 

With video rapidly becoming the dominant content type on enterprise networks the issues being faced in the media market foreshadow the coming challenges for the rest of the market. And use of the cloud was very much in focus at the 2014 National Association of Broadcasters conference held in Las Vegas in the second week of April.

Most industries need a push to move aggressively into the cloud  -- and the media & entertainment market was no different. The initial push came from the threat of disruption by over the top (OTT) distributors, like NetFlix, who were primarily leveraging the cloud. “[We] aren’t going to be cold-cocked like music was,” said Roy Sekoff, president and co-creator of, HuffPost Live. As a result, video production houses, news organizations and television and motion picture studios are being the most aggressive. Now an upcoming shift to Ultra HD presents a new series of challenges including file sizes, bandwidth limitations, and new complexities for workflows, visual effects and interactivity.  

Here we present ten issues the media industry faces as it more broadly embraces the cloud, as observed first-hand at NABShow 2014. These ten issues show how going cloud changes how you think (planning), act (workflow), and engage (distribute). For Forrester clients there is a new companion report to this blog detailing what the industry is doing to address these challenges and how you can follow suit:

Change how you think: Strategy and planning

1.     Video files grow exponentially. Ultra HD is just one of several new video formats (including 4K, HDR, 8K) that deliver resolutions four-times more detailed than today’s HD video. Even if consumer demand for Ultra HD TV sets is still years away, the relative simplicity and visual quality appeal of shifting to higher-resolution production means producers are beginning the move to Ultra HD now. But this better resolution comes with serious storage and bandwidth costs. According to Al Kovalick, founder of Media Systems Consulting, a live stream of 4K content can consume up to 190 Gbps of network bandwidth. “I have clients shooting up to 100TBs of content per day,” said Guillaume Aubuchon, CTO Digital Film Tree.

2.     Cloud security fears will force business change and security improvements. Protecting video IP in a multitenant, over-the-Internet world remains a major concern and learning curve for the media market. As in other industries the most common approach remains to limit external exposure to media assets by either keeping them on-premise or to ship them via trusted logistics partners to collaborators. But shipping is becoming impractical due to file sizes and thanks to the ease of media duplication downstream illegal copying is still a risk. But in a world where all high-demand content will be delivered via OTT, this line of thinking is naïve.  As a result we are seeing high adoption of content security solutions such as FilmTrack, a SaaS-based content protection solution that tracks assets and governs use terms. 

3.     The business and technology sides will get pulled into partnership. Today’s media content professionals are closely aligning their technology professionals and business strategy experts. HuffPost Live, is ratcheting up the audience engagement model for news by shifting to an agile innovation model that pairs its editorial and technical staffs so that new engagement ideas can be rapidly crafted and implemented. One such innovation leverages Skype, social media and its own internal newsroom workflow system to let viewers become curated on-air guests within ten minutes. “Today’s news has the golden rolodex,” said HuffPost Live’s Sekoff, “they bring on the same sources to comment on the news over and over. Online journalism like HuffPost Live uses social to get more relevant voices into the conversation.”

4.     Digitally disrupting yourself is necessary and doable. While most in the media market are leveraging cloud services to offer their own OTT solutions and second screen experiences many still suffer the innovator’s dilemma in this regard. “I think we’re cursed that the love affair with TV persists in the face of all this disruption,” said Roger Keating, Senior Vice President of Digital Media, Hearst Television Inc., “It makes many in our business feel that we will be immune to the level of disruption other media markets have seen. That won’t be the case.”

Change how you act: Workflow

5.     Increasing complexity of post-production exceeds capacity. Disney’s Frozen required 50,000 CPU cores crunching simultaneously to process its 3D effects and meet its opening date. The next Frozen, shot in 4K, will up the effects complexity 10-12x, according to visual effects experts. While Moore’s Law will continue to run its course, this growth in compute need far outscales current CPU advancement schedules. Who can bring so many cores to bear at once?

6.     Collaboration in the cloud makes immediate sense. Hollywood has long been a collection of specialists who come together for content creation. Thus on-premise workflow systems are hitting the limits both in ability to on-board and manage a federation of identities and support the collective editing of the growing video files. As such, nearly all the major workflow tools makers now offer SaaS-based workflow systems that are either used purely in the cloud or in a hybrid mode with some workflows on-premise and others delivered from the cloud. Specialized workflow systems such as Shotgun, for video effects processes, DAX and Joust for post-production and game design have been available for many years. The latest to jump into this fray was Avid, the leader in post-production tools for video and audio content with its MediaCentral Platform. Like Adobe Anywhere and Sony Ci before it, MediaCentral Platform links together all its on-premise software applications with a public cloud-based collaboration and storage environment.

7.     Metadata will be required to unlock the full potential of content. In a digital editing and distribution world, it’s imperative to find the right clips as rapidly as possible and via as many different types of search as we can. Editors look for camera-captured details, cinematographer’s notes and script queues. And news and entertainment producers and distributors rely on metadata tags that identify clips based on who, what, when and where that turn B-roll into immediately relevant news footage. Yet, the industry’s track record of consistently tagging content is poor to say the least. The value of metadata is increasing exponentially as we proliferate content via digital means but there aren’t modern standards and a lot of content has poor metadata associated with it.

Change how you engage: Distribution.

8.     Fragmented viewers require more effort to engage. The days of the broadcasting market where you could count on your audience tuning in to your station during prime time and sitting through your prescribed lineup are still alive but far from safely remaining the norm. DVRs, mobile devices and streaming services like Hulu, YouTube and AwesomenessTV continue to break this cycle giving consumers greater control over what, when, where and how they watch content and what they will pay for. Thus raising the most confounding question: where do you put your content to catch the modern eyeballs. And there’s rising concern that the modern consumer isn’t simply a passive observer but one who wants to be engaged and to engage with and around your content. So how do you best engage them and monetize this engagement?

9.     Cloud’s definition of archive doesn’t fit the Media market’s needs. Amazon Web Services’ Glacier service has gained quick popularity as a low-cost cloud-based archival solution, but like tape and VTL before it, Glacier is designed for infrequent archive access. And traditional cloud storage solutions don’t fit well either due to lack of proven durability. We cannot continue to rely on tape and film formats for long-term storage, when high fidelity images make these mechanisms impractical for rapid access.

10.   Archived content is a potential gold mine when delivered via the cloud.  The M&E archive already makes money, but digital will make it possible to rake in the cash thanks to OTT binge watching and content repurposing. Once you improve automated metadata generation and apply it to the newly commercialized archive content, each hour of video represents money waiting to be made. But how do you ensure the archive will continue to return maximum investment? With changing video formats and high quality demands, remastering content may preserve it revenue but in what formats? And what use cases will yield the most revenue for what type of archival content? And will that format last?

 

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