The single most important question for any media operations leader in a viral-driven, real-time market is this: Can you respond? Interestingly, the answer depends on your infrastructure, and possibly your mindset around it.
In many ways, digital media operations still resemble analog workflow and labor divisions. The DNA of the industry is department-level, siloed, sequential functions, each with their own tailor-made on-premises technical infrastructure. The focus is not trained on the enterprise value of the entire infrastructure, and what can be achieved with a fully integrated and virtualized technical operation.
It not only leaves money on the table but traps a company in a cycle of reacting rather than responding to changes in the market. Meanwhile, the appetite for video-on-demand continues rising, along with internet usage and time spent with digital media. It’s safe to say that whatever the next iteration of media consumption is, content providers will have to handle greater and more diverse demand; faster, with as little friction as possible. But the siloes that exist today introduce friction that remains entrenched for a number of reasons. Why is that?
First, the original assignment was to recreate analog media systems with digital technology. Management structures followed accordingly, divided into departments with purview over their assigned function and limited interaction beyond that. Application vendors still pitch to department managers according to whatever that department does and what functions they need.
As a result, technology is then adopted from a function mentality versus an optimization mentality. Offloading transcoding to the cloud is not the same as enterprise optimization and how you use the overall infrastructure. This is what we emphasize because we’ve seen enterprise-level optimization in a fully virtualized infrastructure. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts and the optimization compounds as more of the enterprise adopts a common approach.
We talk about media providers operating supply chains. A good analogy is the logistics industry. They’re physically moving goods between a point of origin and a point of consumption. Along the way, related activities such as packaging, labeling, inventory management, and more are happening. Media supply chains are doing the same thing, but for digital goods. It’s raw material in, it’s content for consumers out. Any industry that does that has issues of waste, efficiency, responsiveness, and agility. In logistics, what affects efficiency upstream has cascading impact downstream. When obstacles, like friction, are cleared, everything can move faster.
For media companies, this is where the infrastructure as a whole becomes such a strategic imperative. Optimization all across the infrastructure transforms what an enterprise can do. When you can process content at the drop of a hat, that speed becomes an asset. It broadens how that content can be monetized. It opens up opportunities for sales that would not otherwise exist, and revenue is the point of the exercise. That’s why we’re making the case that enterprise-level adoption of a cloud-based media infrastructure unlocks capabilities that piecemeal adoption does not. It allows for a level of responsiveness that fundamentally alters the business. Velocity is just one benefit. Just like logistics, when you optimize any part of the virtualized media supply chain, you optimize each step in the chain going forward.
The real benefits of a virtualized media supply chain are coming to light as the media business grows more complex and fragmented. Media providers are putting content on all sorts of on-demand platforms, all over the place. Within the last five years, six major cable networks launched on-demand streaming services reaching nearly half-a-billion subscribers. Change is assured; to what degree is unknown. The tech evolution launched by the digital transition is still unfolding, and just like then, no one knows for certain what the future holds.
If you ask our customers, the experienced user would say that agility and speed are far and away the most outstanding benefits of having a cloud-based infrastructure. It’s about the ability to respond to unexpected events, and to do it fast. The ultimate test of any media infrastructure, however, is the consumer experience. It’s in the eyes of the viewers. If my infrastructure allows me to respond more quickly, I am more competitive as a media company. If I continue managing the infrastructure the way I have for 30 years, I’m on my way to extinction. One of our customers needed to go from making 1,500 content deliveries to five or six destinations to 100,000 deliveries to more than 200 destinations. That’s a massive increase in packages and destinations, and all demanded in the shortest time possible without additional resources. Frankly, it was impossible with a legacy approach, and only a fully optimized, cloud-based enterprise-wide media supply chain can meet that challenge.
The essence of what we’re talking about is an infrastructure that presumes everything is unpredictable. Everything changes, and you never know when or what. You have to absorb n number of sources, in n number of formats, and for n number of destinations with n number of versions at any given time. We’re talking about an infrastructure that’s inherently adaptable to changing phenomena—volume, inputs, formats, processing, compression, distribution, etc., and all those not yet determinable. The adaptable infrastructure does not obsolesce. Nothing collects dust or sits idle half the time generating overhead.
The lifecycle of digital media operations modeled on old on-premise systems is coming to a close. Those systems did not anticipate the explosion of media forms, platforms, and demand that would evolve out of digital technology and the rise of the Internet as the planet’s communications fabric. What’s required is a more modern cloud-based approach across the enterprise that gives content providers the speed and flexibility they need to respond to these dynamics.