08.02.2021 | Ausgabe 1-2/2021

The Cloud Brings “Sense Of Normalcy”

To Production And Distribution In Challenging Times

Michael Grotticelli is an experienced editor
and regular contributor to FKT’s Tech Across America column. // Image: Michael Grotticelli

Michael Grotticelli is an experienced editor and regular contributor to FKT’s Tech Across America column. // Image: Michael Grotticelli

Large media organizations are streamlining their internal operations by migrating to remote signal processing in the cloud. It saves time and money in equipment investment while also reducing inefficient or unnecessarily redundant workflows. In a year dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, remote operations have also provided a technical foundation that has helped bring back sports to fans sitting at home while also keeping production crews safe.

The live sports industry could not have survived any other way.

As one example, ViacomCBS is shifting its global broadcast media operation and transforming the way it handles content creation and delivery with Amazon Web Services (AWS) as its preferred cloud partner. This represents one of the first large-scale cloud transitions in the industry and spans Viacom CBS’s 425 linear television channels and 40 global data and media centers.

The global media leader is leveraging AWS’s virtualized infrastructure and cloud capabilities – like “serverless” processing, IT containers, databases, media services, analytics, and machine learning – to create a complex yet easily managed cloud-based broadcast and media supply chain. This has allowed ViacomCBS to spin up new channels faster, dynamically assemble live content to optimize delivery over any distribution channel, add image and video analysis to applications, and automate workflows – all to deliver innovative and rich viewer experiences.

ViacomCBS is now in the process of deploying AWS media services and AWS machine learning to scale video processing resources, predict audience preferences, and automate workflows.

Looking at the efficiencies, under its new infrastructure model ViacomCBS’ team has quickly launched CBSN Local, an offshoot of its existing CBSN national streaming video news channel, and add its 18 owned-and-operated stations as an over-the-top (OTT) service. This has allowed ViacomCBS to produce dynamic content and more efficiently distribute national and local news on CBSN, CBS News’s 24/7 digital streaming service. This also gives CBSN viewers more options about when and where they can watch their news on the devices of their choice.

The cloud is also helping ViacomCBS quickly and efficiently expand its sports channel lineup to meet sports fans’ demands for more and more Timescontent. The company recently added roughly 300 Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) football matches to its CBS Sports Network lineup. Leveraging cloud flexibility, the CBS Sports Network operations and engineering teams only needed about a month to prepare and launch this new sports tier that successfully debuted October 1. Previously, it would have taken several months or longer and involved a number of third-party vendors to develop this type of service.

In a similar decentralized model, Google and Major League Baseball (MLB) have inked a multi-year deal in which Google Cloud has become MLB’s Official Cloud and Cloud Data and Analytics partner.

From a data perspective, one interesting piece of MLB’s new remote signal processing infrastructure is called Statcast, the league’s in-park data capture system that allows for collection and analysis of a massive amount of baseball data. MLB’s business operations, including Statcast, are now running on Google Cloud. In addition, for a third season in a row, MLB used Google Ad Manager and its Dynamic Ad Insertion feature to power its ads business. This is not only changing the way games are viewed but also how and why production decisions (e.g., camera angles, resource allocation and staffing.) are made.

MLB has migrated its cloud and on-premise systems to Google Cloud and deploying Google’s machine learning, analytics, application management, and data/video storage capabilities to increase reliability and manage the infrastructure at scale. Google is working closely with MLB to bring the next evolution of Statcast, as well as a number of new technological innovations, to life.

MLB’s migration to Google Cloud has already resulted in an exponential improvement in analytics and decision making, enabling MLB to provide teams with a unified data plane to accelerate decision making. This past season MLB teams used Google Cloud’s capabilities in machine learning, network, and analytics to add new visual features to the live telecasts for fans at home.

These cloud migrations have allowed both MLB and ViacomCBS to spin channels up or down quickly and experiment with new channels without incurring extensive cost. This elasticity proved to be extremely helpful with the resumption of sporting events in 2020, in many cases allowing CBS Sports and MLB to get back online, respectively, within days of the easing of government restrictions.


Going beyond sports, a cloud-based technical workflow could be helpful to any business looking to scale up its processes for turning data into insights and improve its data-driven decision making. Across industries, there is tremendous upside to generating objective measurements, turning them into timely, contextual, succinct bits of valuable information, and doing so with vastly improved efficiency relying on automation.

There’s also much to be said about cloud elasticity and its ability to handle spikes in processing power usage. We live in a world of unpredictability, when it comes to consumer demand, so companies have to be ready and able to pivot their services to meet this unprecedented demand.

By now the cloud has become familiar to video system engineers and is slowly becoming a vital part of virtually every media company’s content production and distribution strategy. It’s also being deployed to support different infrastructure configurations – on-premise, cloud, or a hybrid of the two – that address a wide variety of remote and distributed productions. There’s no size fits all here.

The pandemic has accelerated this cloud migration but everyone agrees it was coming, nonetheless. Efficiency/cost reduction. By using cloud infrastructure, you don’t have to spend huge amounts of money on purchasing and maintaining equipment. Other advantages include improved data security, scalability, mobility, disaster recovery, control, and most importantly, it could help foster a distinct competitive edge.

IT-centric technology is no longer a luxury, but a necessary path to some sense of normalcy in these challenging times


 

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