Why Cloud Production is a matter of existence

“You’re just so caught up in ruling over your rotten little fiefdom. The rest of the world, they’ve moved to the cloud, and it is gorgeous up there.”

Cory Ellison (Billy Crudup), CEO UBA 
The Morning Show, Apple TV+

 

If you’ve watched Apple TV’s The Morning Show, then you might be familiar with the above quote. In the streaming TV series, fictional broadcaster UBA suffers from declining viewing figures and are launching its streaming initiative, UBA+. This with the expectation to help the broadcaster catch up with the internet TV services which are stealing its viewers’ attention.

 

However, ‘just’ launching a streaming platform and distributing broadcast content on the internet is not necessarily enough to turn the tide.

 

Beyond the broadcast playbook

Successful services on the internet follow a different playbook to broadcasters. They have different laws of physics. The traditional broadcast concept was created in an era where bandwidth was expensive and scarce. Computing heavy applications, such as video, had to be implemented in dedicated on premise hardware and the receiving TV set had no capabilities next to render a frame. Due to this, distribution was in simplex mode and the viewer anonymous. On top of this – and to a large extent, due to this – technical infrastructure and the operative processes were industry specific, slow, and rigid.

 

While much in broadcast conceptually has stayed the same, totally new kinds of services such as social media, multiplayer gaming and platforms for user generated content have been brought to the world thanks to the internet. A concept that is the very opposite to traditional broadcast. Plenty of bandwidth in full duplex and highly capable devices loved by the users have facilitated a user centric environment with fast innovation cycles. And thanks to the layered application philosophy – using standard hardware, IP, internet, and cloud – they automatically leverage the continuous technical advances driven by Moore’s Law.

 

The collaborative principles on the internet have resulted in modular architecture and design philosophies erasing the need to be an industry domain expert to contribute and opened up for sharing of components and knowledge between industry sectors.

 

The core product in the broadcast and TV industry is content. It’s the reason why viewers tune into a service. While TV and its content is somewhat ‘well defined’, internet-based TV services – including global VoD platforms like Netflix – have introduced new video concepts that compete for viewers’ attention. Other examples like YouTube and TikTok, and also the emergence of eSports and Fortnite, have presented new concepts that are inherently different from TV but still compete for the same eyeballs. The impact of these new formats and platforms for content consumption has particularly affected the generations who have grown up with internet – with a recent BBC report finding out that one fifth of under-16s don’t use any BBC content; those aged 16-34 use YouTube as their main viewing outlet.

 

Enabling TV’s transformation

Successful internet-based services have understood that technology – and especially internet technology – is not only one key enabler, but the key enabler driving innovation and evolution. It must be embraced in everything they do.

 

For about a decade, the TV industry has used the same technology as internet-based services for distributing content. But in order to stay relevant, the advantages of the internet must be embraced across every aspect of the service and the content lifecycle. By unlocking the possibilities of the internet, TV providers can deliver a successful service that incentivizes viewers to tune in – or rather, sign in.

 

This is why cloud and internet-based production is not only a necessity, but a matter of long-term existence. It’s not only about making the production more efficient and cost-effective, but it’s also about enabling new ways of working. This could entail inviting more kinds of cameras to contribute to the production – thereby delivering more content to work with. It’s also about enabling a more distributed organization, inviting top talent from wherever they are located to be involved in production. And it’s also about being able to close the gap between production and distribution – upstream and downstream processes and technologies – to enable personalization by delivering content and experiences curated to match the individual users interests and preferences.

 

Therefore, moving production to the cloud – and doing so using internet-based concepts, technologies, and protocols – is essential for broadcasters who plan to stay relevant in a time where competition is fierce. The very definition of TV needs to be reconsidered and this according to the new laws of physics of internet.

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