To no one's surprise, cloud computing is massively on the rise. Between 2018 and 2021, worldwide spending on public cloud services is expected to grow 73 percent, from $160B to $277B. Why? The recent rapid adoption of cloud is in part due to the increasingly widespread understanding of its ease of use and scalability. And in the Covid-era, the reasons have blossomed into widespread desire for fully remote-based businesses.
Our industry is paying attention. From desires to shed dedicated hardware restraints to having more control over content and how it is consumed by audiences, the reasons for broadcasters to migrate to the cloud vary. We’ll dig into some of the key areas we found are motivating factors for companies that leap beyond the broadcast conventions of the past.
Sometimes (most times) the key driver is price. Networks have come under increasing pressure as the price of rights for content have risen and the need to produce and distribute content across a wider array of platforms in increasing formats has added to production costs. Throw in declining ad revenues, increased competition, piracy and Covid and the challenges on cost have never been greater.
By migrating to the cloud, you can eliminate the need to install equipment and software on-premises for video ingest, storage, scheduling, playout and processing. Cloud-based channel origination and distribution platforms are hosted in the cloud, with little if any upfront costs, lowering the total cost of ownership for a video streaming service. At the same time, cloud costs in general continue to decline as explored in this article by App Developer Magazine. Factor in reduced costs for travel and shipping and you're looking at the potential for huge savings.
Flexibility is an integral capability of adopting cloud workflows. Using cloud-based services and platforms give you the freedom to work with any type of delivery network, format, codecs and viewing device that you want. Technologies and formats that haven’t even been invented yet can be supported in the future without cumbersome hardware or software upgrades. Anyone who’s had to upgrade their broadcast hardware or software to accommodate new features and formats knows how expensive this can get.
While the cloud offers a vastly wider range of flexibility in workflows, it also offers flexibility for remote work. Browser-based platforms or services allow personnel to log in from any location on any computer, giving people the flexibility to work from anywhere. Artists can update designs immediately in a browser to be viewed by a line manager or client for approval. Graphics operators, directors and producers can monitor, prepare and edit multiple elements of a production from wherever they are without the need to ship any hardware to their location.
Traditional solutions will not and cannot keep up with the growth of content production that OTT requires. Consider a case where a broadcaster is required to produce live-broadcasts of a thousand games in a week, which translates to around 142 matches per day for 7-days. Larger networks with different regional outputs using traditional workflows require hardware for each and every output. Based on these relatively common examples alone, the logistical and financial challenges quickly become apparent. Broadcasters trying to use traditional tools for modern demands face the reality of having enough hardware (and redundancy), adequate personnel with relevant expertise and the logistics to manage it all.
Today’s cloud-based production platforms support all stages of media processing and delivery, making it easy to take a channel from source to multiple screens. In addition, by pivoting to cloud-based graphics platforms, you're pivoting to options that were conceived with scalability in mind.
And how about the ease at which the cloud offers options to scale up or down depending on consistently adjusting needs? With workflows of the past, evolving productions are met with challenges of having the wrong hardware or hardware that isn’t needed. Why pay for something that’s sitting around, unused? The ability to scale up and down as requirements change is just good business.
Many of the new cloud based platforms are built to be intuitive and familiar. Importantly though they are also highly accessible with browser-based interfaces and no dedicated hardware requirements. This makes it far easier for people new to the platforms to get instant access and spend time learning how to use them. Typically with traditional systems, budgetary considerations mean that hardware is limited and so giving your whole team unlimited access (let alone external suppliers) is not always possible.
In addition to accessibility, cloud systems typically include industry standard APIs and SDKs that are easier for general developers to work with. This enables broadcasters to quickly and easily create their own interfaces and applications but also means there is less requirement for dedicated broadcast specialist talent. This opens things up to a much wider pool or potential resources if there’s a need to outsource development work. The platforms themselves are mostly built using web standards so internal and external teams are not having to learn new development languages and protocols.
Moving into the cloud offers productions an opportunity to take advantage of cutting edge web technology and more prominently, html graphics technology.
The web is designed for customization and personalization which in broadcast unlocks endless potential for curating unique experiences that can vary from viewer to viewer. Features such as language personalization, age-specific content, device adaptivity and more aren’t possible in traditional graphics platforms that burn graphics onto video feeds, restricting viewers to the same content. Now consider how a live football game can allow viewers to choose their own experience; selecting the fantasy mode, the kid-friendly feed or the betting-focused one. Using modern cloud and browser-based platforms make these concepts (and beyond) possible.
For example, Singular uses customizable Intelligent Overlays which open up a two way dialogue with each and every viewer. Intelligent Overlays are rendered On Device (graphics are rendered on each viewer’s device) unlocking these localization, personalization and interactive features. Web-based platforms like Singular can also track engagement data like never before. Singular is set to release Singular Analytics (SA) to Enterprise clients so that they can track exactly how many people are opening and clicking on the various graphics through their Intelligent Overlays, in real time. This important viewership data, giving rich insights into live audiences, is not technically possible using traditional graphics workflows. You can see a working example of many of these advanced features from the INEOS 1:59 Challenge. Some other basic examples of this can be found on Singular’s website, here.
“It struck me as completely insane they required all of this for what was essentially taking in a video signal and adding graphic overlays” - Hubert Oehm, CTO of Singular.live.
Hardware dependency puts pressure on companies with desires to be more sustainable. Not only are they having to buy dedicated hardware, they also have to ship it (and the operators) to wherever they want to use it.
Reality Check Systems, an Emmy award winning broadcast technology and services company, worked with Red Bull on a live, remote surfing production from Tasmania - Cape Fear 2019. Using cloud based platforms, they were able to send a very small skeleton crew to location with the bulk of production occurring in Santa Monica, before being fed back to Red Bull's HQ in Austria for live distribution. The environmental benefit of not sending all the kit and crew halfway around the world was huge. You can read more about that here.
Lastly, sustainability accreditations like the one awarded to Singular by Albert (the BAFTA organization for sustainable production) would simply not be applicable to hardware based traditional systems.
Cloud and browser-based tools are setting a new precedent for modern broadcasting. The motivations to switch to this up and coming standard vary from cost savings, to scalability to amazing frontiers of viewership engagement. For broadcasters who are wary of the cloud, it’s important to note that through this Covid-era, these new platforms have been vigorously tested and used to deliver broadcast quality content at scale across the planet.
With limited up front costs and commitments, a proven ability to deliver and next gen functionality audiences crave, it’s not hard to see why cloud-based platforms and services are becoming the new industry standard.