By Allen Broome, CEO, MediaKind
Earlier this month I was delighted to join Jeff Rosica, CEO, Avid; Thomas Burns, CTO, Dell Technologies; and the IABM’s Head of Knowledge, Lorenzo Zanni, to discuss some of the significant industry drivers impacting the state of the broadcast and media industry today. The panel delved into how changing media economics is impacting investment decisions, with profound considerations for both buyers and users of media technology.
The discussion between myself, Jeff, Thomas, and Lorenzo was fascinating and couldn’t have come at a better time. The digital polarization we’re currently witnessing across the media sector redefines the relationship between technology providers and their customers. The discussion was framed around IABM’s latest research on the state of the broadcast and media industry in 2021, covering a broad range of trends, including the move to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and streaming technology business models.
We started the discussion by looking at the increase in SaaS investment since the start of the pandemic and what this has meant for our customers. From my perspective, we’ve seen a broad acceleration towards the cloud over these past 18 months. Cloud service providers are increasingly managing more on-prem infrastructure, which means we’re starting to see greater convergence between public and private cloud environments.
If you had asked me what the MediaKind roadmap looked like in January 2020, I would have explained how we had plans to undertake several physical hardware refreshes. Instead, we had to halt these refreshes due to the lack of physical access during the lockdowns. But the restrictions also opened opportunities for MediaKind to accelerate longer-term plans. Moving media workloads to the cloud formed a big part of our R&D investments.
As Thomas mentioned, the media industry has quickly adopted new techniques such as at-home or virtual production during this period. The concept of a TV production crew producing an entire slate of live programming from their homes seemed inconceivable pre-pandemic. Now, of course, cloud production workflows are becoming more widespread for all kinds of live programming.
At MediaKind, we’ve placed a strong emphasis on developing core technologies in the cloud to deliver our customers’ core services. Equally, we know our customers still have separate technology stacks and people who can operate them. Some of our media customers want the ability to deploy software into their own account set up, whether on-premise or in public clouds. But a significant number prefer not to deal with that complexity. That’s where the attraction of a ready-made SaaS solution lies – the entire software lifecycle is managed by someone else. There is no one-size-fits-all model. Ultimately, MediaKind’s goal is to focus on converging operational processes first and technology second.
Later in our discussion, Lorenzo outlined the growth of general-purpose technology in media and how media technology is now also being used in adjacent markets. Jeff made a great point on this topic: “there are no more gatekeepers.” The concept of media itself has been democratized. The tools we use for media creation are now just as applicable to an HR department communicating to employees as they are to a service provider delivering entertaining content to a family in a living room.
That’s something we’ve had to consider when developing our own core media technology. For instance, we can take the same core software we might deploy on commodity hardware and call it an appliance. Equally, we might sell that core software as a software license to enable our customers to deploy it on their hardware. We have made our technology available as SaaS via the public cloud and made it available in the marketplace so enterprises can continue to make committed spins to their cloud vendor of choice.
But regardless of how we change, package, or provide our technology, we must always ensure it is readily accessible and delivered in a way that removes core pain points, whichever industry or sector our customers operate in. It’s ultimately about offering the freedom to work within all existing models and the flexibility to work with different cloud service providers and within the remits of our customers’ existing structures.
One of the final areas our panel covered was the growth in demand for interactive content. I loved Thomas’ reference to Brenda Laurel’s 1991 book, “Computers as Theatre,” which presented a (then) new theory around human-computer activity. It references how user interfaces should have all the best aspects of storytelling. That is what the media industry needs to strive towards today. With my technology background, interactivity is an area that excites me for the future. The evolution of live streaming has enabled us to learn huge amounts about viewing audiences – and ultimately how they want their future experience to be shaped.
As we’ve seen from our 2021 Sports D2C Forecast, sports leagues and operators are looking to find ways to deepen relationships with their fans. They’re looking to provide new methods to interact, engage and have access to an enhanced, richer viewpoint of the game, whether that’s through specialized data into the presentation layer, synchronized streams from multiple sources, or a unique camera angle. It’s an area we’ve helped enable on a large scale, and we know it’s possible to curate and personalize second-screen experiences. We know how to help our customers marry up the video data and the technology stack in the background to make sure the content stays in sync.
Yes, there are several challenges to overcome – not least in scaling to hit enormous periodic peaks of concurrent live streaming. Let’s take the Super Bowl as an example. If you try to deliver that content to 100 million users, it’s primarily done over broadcast networks. That’s quite some undertaking, especially in an OTT world where everything is watched by unicast and separate data feeds need to be synchronized. If we were to deliver Super Bowl streaming content via broadcast networks in UHD, we’re suddenly talking about transmission rates of 2000 terabits per second. Not only can the network not cope, but no CDN capacity in the world can live up to that demand either.
As we move forward, this is an area we believe MediaKind is ready to address. It’s our goal to give our customers the freedom to stream live without limits. Over the next 12 months, we’re going to demonstrate what that means for MVPDs, broadcasters, content owners, and rights holders, traditional and new. Just as Laurel’s book suggests, it’s about enabling the entire media industry to focus on their own next-level creativity in content and experience.
You can now watch the IABM BaM LIVE! Panel session on demand.