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2022 outlook: Parting the way for media in the cloud

By Meir Lehrer, VP, Portfolio Development, MediaKind   

A new year calls for a refreshed outlook on the trends and technologies set to influence how the media industry operates over the next 12 months. But some of the so-called ‘transformations’ reported in the industry during 2021 are still taking some time to materialize. For that reason, my predictions for the year ahead are more continuations and developments from trends that have been in progress for some time. They are defined and underpinned, and in many instances accelerated, by the ongoing wholesale migration to the public cloud by all parties across the media value chain.

  • There will be more public-cloud-first deployments

The public cloud will remain a mainstay among media service deployments in 2022. Media organizations have gone beyond the experimental phase of public cloud, and it now forms the main part of their strategy for service deployments or prototyping. Between content owners, broadcasters, and operators, there is now space and a special relationship for the main public cloud platforms in their operations.

In 2022, the biggest shift we will see in public cloud deployments is the transition towards managed cloud applications (MCA), with media organizations moving beyond multi-vendor or traditional software-as-a-service (SaaS) deployments. Launching new public cloud-based endeavors out of a vendor’s SaaS positioning utilizes the vendor’s account in the public cloud, which doesn’t afford the TV operator much variety, customization, or flexibility. In an MCA deployment, the software is deployed and managed by the vendor but within a customer’s own cloud account. This has the benefit of using a customer’s preferred CSP vendor, typically selected as part of a wider company transformation, while taking advantage of agreements and spending commitments with that CSP for media applications.

This trend is more of a refinement of where we saw things when the concept of SaaS took off. Media organizations are now running their services slightly differently to harness more flexibility and customization. Plus, global shortages, supply chain issues, and transformations are driving a faster move away from on-premises infrastructure towards the cloud. Running the service out of a customer’s public cloud account gives them faster speed to market, enables a combined development and operations (DevOps) approach, and all the pluses of a SaaS platform.

  • We will see increased streaming and the ongoing transition towards ABR

Multichannel Video Distributors (MVPDs) and broadcasters will continue to launch more streaming platforms of their own. This will impact the virtual MVPD (vMVPD) market, which is experiencing mounting competition in the face of more direct streaming by broadcasters. As a result, we’ll see a lot more appetite for unicast IP streaming services, both on the part of the consumer and the broadcasters, who are now fully engaged in providing their own adaptive bitrate (ABR)-based unicast IP streaming services, whereas they might not have been before.

Broadcasters will continue providing constant bitrate (CBR) broadcast-type quality services to their MVPD customers (including cable, telco, and satellite operators) as a contribution or distribution agreement. However, these customers now all have streaming engagements of their own, and as the market matures, we’ll see a natural evolution across the board towards more ABR-driven services.

  • The transition away from broadcast CBR continues

Until recently, broadcasters have mainly delivered multicast services to TV operators and MVPDs, which are then delivered to a broadcast channel over a cable or telco network. This reality is quickly changing, however, as the pervasiveness of streaming continues.

Now MVPDs provide a growing amount of content through streaming, which is solely unicast and over IP by nature. It means we’ll increasingly see broadcasters go direct-to-consumer (D2C) to maintain engagement with their audiences, increase the flexibility of their operations and grow the monetizable potential of their content. D2C streaming can only be done via ABR and over IP, which, largely speaking, can only be done unicast as there’s no mature solution for multicast IP over the open internet. However, research and development initiatives remain ongoing and innovation within multicast delivery solutions over public infrastructure remains a very reasonable possibility for 2022.

  • Live without limits will become paramount among media priorities

Given the intersection of increased ABR, transitioning away from broadcast CBR, and migration to mainstay managed cloud applications noted above, there will be an inexorable need to drive a reliable, broadcast-quality of experience of OTT and streaming at scale plus the ability to monetize it through new media money models. This will focus primarily on higher-value live programming. This “live without limits” approach will become a top driving priority in media planning by content providers, MVPDs, as well as OTT and streaming operators.

These increasing trends – streaming, IP-first, and unicast – are all facets of the same gem. They are all part and parcel of the continued shift away from broadcast and CBR delivery mechanisms towards ones more suited for streaming functionality. The result will see broadcasters, TV operators, and MVPDs deliver better technology investments, more agile operations, and ultimately, enhanced media experiences.