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NAB 2022: Cloud-based computing platforms and XaaS models capturing the attention of M&E companies 

BY SHAUN LIM

Despite what some might have you believe, the pandemic, and the massive disruption it has brought to the way we live and work, has not been all doom and gloom. In finding opportunities among the myriad challenges brought forth over the last two years, many organisations have successfully reimagined and reinvented the way they work. For the media and entertainment (M&E) industry, the need to create and distribute content saw remote production rise in volume; in the process, it also hastened the adoption of cloud broadcast workflow and operations as a business necessity.

Cloud technology, of course, is not a new concept for M&E companies. However, driven by concerns over cost, control and security, some have been hesitant to fully embrace cloud into their broadcast workflows. 

It is perhaps time for a rethink. As the competition intensifies to deliver content over multiple platforms to as many people as possible, cloud will allow operators to deploy direct-to-consumer (D2C) models and more varied monetisation tactics. With cloud, operators can also embrace artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to gain new levels of elasticity and scalability.

With cloud continuing to gain acceptance with M&E companies, there is also a growing trend of adopting a combination of cloud-based computing platforms and everything-as-a-service (XaaS) models, claims Deloitte.

Deloitte’s case for M&E cloud

According to the research and analysis firm’s 2021 report, The case for M&E cloud: Moving to fourth-generation broadcast infrastructure, such a combination offers M&E companies an affordable solution to their technology investment dilemma. “Increasingly, robust cloud and XaaS solutions have been able to diminish traditional industry resistance to cloud because they can deliver a range of critical capabilities,” Deloitte wrote.

For instance, on-premises, outsourced, and hybrid cloud models give broadcast engineers and media technicians more direct control of operations while maintaining the flexibility and cost-sensitivity of each application or data set.

At a time when media organisations around the world continue to be besieged by cyberattacks, cloud security is recognised as a shared responsibility of companies and cloud providers. Both organisations, said Deloitte, are carefully managing and monitoring cloud environments to stay ahead of potential cyberattacks. Drawing on findings from security solutions provider Exabeam, Deloitte highlighted that almost half (44%) of organisations are using cloud-based security products to protect their data in a bid to mitigate risk, compared with only 12% of businesses using cloud-based security solutions in 2019.

Selecting vendors with M&E industry knowledge and proven technologies is important to M&E decision-makers and influencers, Deloitte pointed out. Realising this tendency, some cloud service providers heavily recruited leading media technology vendors to its cloud platform.

Low latency is also a growing priority for M&E companies. Supported by cloud, faster and highly secure ingest portals address studios’ concerns with movement times for their enormous file-based assets, while direct camera-to-cloud acquisition promises higher speeds in the near future, even while on location.

Broadcast distribution strategies, said Deloitte, are consciously designed for linear and non-linear multi-platform targets – including live broadcasts – and make use of careful design considerations.

Comfort and confidence are also being offered by the fact that many of today’s leading cloud service providers, including Amazon, Microsoft, Google, IBM, Oracle and Sony, are some of the largest, most financially stable, operationally rigorous, technically up-to-date, and highly secure business partners, who are fully capable of standing behind stringent service-level agreements (SLAs), Deloitte highlighted.

Cloud overshadows 2022 NAB show 

For many years the barometer of the latest trends and developments in the M&E industry, the 2022 edition of the NAB Show came to a successful conclusion on April 27. Besides marking the first in-person NAB Show since 2019, it was also instructive that cloud was one of the most prominent and hotly discussed topics at this year’s show.

For instance, Imagine Communications introduced what it calls the “first truly cloud-native platform”, which enables broadcasters, MVPDs (Multichannel Video Programming Distributor), and digital-first providers to plan, make and monetise premium-quality linear and over-the-top (OTT) content from a single, unified platform. 

Called Imagine Aviator, the platform combines the critical capabilities of scheduling, rights management, channel origination, live events, video-on-demand (VoD), ad sales, ad placement, ad serving, campaign management, and more into a single cloud platform.

Rob Malcolm, Chief Product Officer, Imagine Communications, explained, “With Aviator, we are bringing together our experience and intellectual property in a unique, cloud-native platform that maximises monetisation of content across broadcast and OTT platforms today, and readies media companies to adapt and thrive, no matter what the future holds.”

Running in the public cloud, Imagine Aviator creates a converged solution that delivers linear programming and VoD content with ads and triggers for local and dynamic ad insertion, making it easier for media companies to successfully monetise content. 

As consumers find more ways to watch, the efficiencies of cloud play an important role in making it easier for media companies to address broadening advertising opportunities and create highly impactful and dynamic channels with genuine appeal to viewers, said Malcolm. “Some aspects of the TV landscape remain uncertain, but making content available on all screens in a way that allows our customers to achieve their full revenue potential requires convergence of content planning, origination and monetisation — and that is exactly what Aviator makes possible.”

Growing portfolio of new cloud solutions

For Evertz, its continuing transition to the cloud is manifested in a growing portfolio of new cloud solutions that support a significant shift away from CAPEX broadcast hardware to virtualised solutions that align OPEX with flexible workflows in the cloud.

Specifically, Evertz is designing an end-to-end broadcast ecosystem that focuses on cloud-agnostic versions of major contribution and production elements within its workflow, while supporting both on-premise and distributed hardware.

A key element within Evertz’ cloud-based solutions is providing customers with a powerful, low-bandwidth cloud on-ramp option for easy and convenient contribution of high-quality video with ultra-low latency for production and streaming applications. 

For instance, Evertz’s XPS live video encoder/decoder series can be deployed to the edge to feed live video, audio and data to Reflektor, Evertz’ software-as-a-service (SaaS) IP distribution (IP DA) platform. Reflektor uses licensed micro services in the cloud to normalise signal types to best suit the needs of the end user or final application, making it an ideal cloud solution for 4K/Ultra HD (UHD) field contribution, remote production, return feed monitoring, remote collaboration and cloud production.

For live event production, Evertz continues to expand and enhance its award-winning BRAVO Studio virtualised production suite platform, which provides broadcasters and content creators with all the traditional elements of a production control room directly in the cloud. Remote users located anywhere can use BRAVO Studio’s web-based interface to access live video streams hosted by any cloud provider in order to complete standard live production functions, including live switching, live graphics, slow motion replay, clipping, and more.

Cloud-based solutions for complete live production workflows

The future of live video belongs in the cloud, declared LiveU, as the video transmission and streaming solutions provider showcased a range of cloud-based solutions for complete live production workflows.

Commenting on the company’s “Moving LiveU to the Cloud” drive, Ronen Artman, Global Vice-President of Marketing, LiveU, said, “We transformed the industry over 15 years ago, and we’re doing it again by moving to the cloud and enabling our customers to do even more using complete end-to-end solutions powered by the LiveU cloud video platform.”

With 5G expected to form a symbiotic relationship with cloud, the LU300S is a cloud-native 5G portable transmission solution that features the latest bonded encoding technology, allowing up to 4K 10-bit HDR (high dynamic range) video over 5G networks. 

To elevate live production workflows, the LiveU Air Control serves as a single collaboration cloud solution, acting as an orchestration and transmission tool to get live feeds into the system, while giving crews the ability to manage all human elements. 

LiveU is also offering the LiveU Matrix, an IP cloud management and distribution solution that empowers newsroom managers to quickly and easily give hundreds of affiliates unparalleled access to live feeds from LiveU units in the field and other sources without any interruption, additional resources, or expensive fees.

“We’re committed to delivering innovative workflow solutions that meet the demands of the ever-evolving industry. Whether the production is on-prem, hybrid, or fully cloud-based, our solutions can accommodate any workflow and provide the highest level of video quality,” Artman concluded.

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