MAD Perspectives Blog

 Cloudy Days Ahead for Broadcasters?

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, May 02, 2012

One of my current clients is in the broadcast space.  As a result, i've been paying a lot of attention to the technology shifts in this space. The two hottest technology topics being discussed online, and just about anyplace else, will impact this industry dramatically.  These topics are:  Tablets and Cloud.

You're not surprised, right? Apple's iPad has changed the way we consume content until the next great innovation comes along. We watch TV with our iPads in hand, reviewing news, checking our Facebook accounts, sending email or watching complementary content to that which is on our TV screens. Just about every broadcast network has an iPad app (or, at least has one in development). Getting content to the iPad requires some effort behind the scenes It is expected that the content will be a combination of video and text; that it will enable some level of interactive; and that its design will be extremely user friendly and enticing.  However, the broadcaster must now produce content in formats useable on the iPad. This requires editing transcoding, distributing and delivering the content itself. These are familiar tasks for any broadcaster, but it adds to the already heavy workloads of the personnel responsible for preparing and managing that content.

At the recent NAB conference, multi-channel content delivery was front and center for many vendors.  This is a primary investment area for all broadcasters.  The challenge is how will they integrate tablet content preparation into their existing workflows. Will they create separate a "tablet" team to edit and adapt content for the end device? Or will they partner with other vendors who will manage this challenge for them.  This introduces the other hot topic - cloud.

To a certain extent, content delivery has been in the cloud for ages. The original content delivery networks provided the infrastructure and network resources to internet companies to enable the efficient delivery of their content to consumers. They invested in the technology (e.g., algorithms, edge cache servers, bandwidth, etc.) and created service level agreements with customers, who paid a fee based on the amount of content served or the bandwidth consumed.  

Today, additional tasks along the broadcast workflow can be performed in the cloud. CPU-intensive functions such as rendering and transcoding or content management challenges such as storage or metadata management are the already happening in the cloud. Across the board, every storage vendor at NAB was promoting its cloud capabilities.  Companies that could be considered pure product companies were introducing and showcasing their cloud storage capabilities.  Why is this of interest to broadcasters?  It converts capital expense to operating expense.  It provides centralized access to users, regardless of their location.  While the largest broadcasters may elect to build their own centralized archives, they may still choose to use cloud storage for disaster recovery.

Cloud computing provides broadcasters with investment alternatives. The challenge will be defining which functions can exist in the cloud, developing the relevant interfaces to access the functionality and integrating cloud services with in-house functions for a seamless workflow. NAB even had a Cloud Pavilion this year with companies offering video production in the cloud. Broadcasters, across the board, must find cost-effective, agile solutions to address internal and external pressures to produce meaningful content and deliver it to the consumer device of choice. Perhaps a cloudy day is just what they need.

What's your perspective?