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Media Asset Management

The cloud is now capable of handling many of the processes involved in TV production, but can it be extended to include content management as well?

ANDREA WINN Sales and commercial director, TVT
PAUL WILKINS Director, solutions & marketing, TMD
JULIAN FERNANDEZ-CAMPON Business solution director, Tedial
HUGO BASTOS Project management office director, VSN

The basic advantages of cloud networks also apply to content management: fewer operational issues, better use of resources, reduced capital expenses, increased mobility and collaboration and the opportunity of new business models. Broadcast spoke to four MAM vendors to share their understanding of the benefits and costs of cloud-based content management.

More and more aspects of production and delivery are being moved to the cloud. Why should content management follow suit?

Paul Wilkins Precisely because so many other processes are moving to the cloud, content management should start migrating too. If a producer is delivering programmes to a broadcaster via a cloud service, it makes sense for transcoding, quality control, proxy creation and other asset management functionality to be performed in the cloud as the content passes. If the metadata created and used for cloud processing also stays in the cloud, it is readily available to all users at all times.

Julian Fernandez-Campon Cloud can provide media companies and content owners with further management and storage options. These range from storage services with additional backup in a separate location to full content management providing complete search capability and the ability for content to be managed by third-party service providers. In addition, broadcasters can control investment and access on-demand services that can adapt dynamically to meet their business needs.

Hugo Bastos More and more clients and projects require access to a content management solution from multiple locations, and that should be reason enough to consider a cloud or hybrid deployment. Users can access and submit content from virtually anywhere, create new business models, such as media exchange platforms and media marketplaces, as well as adapt to different workflows and workloads due to the scalability of cloud infrastructure.

Andrea Winn The key is operational flexibility, which is not possible when limited to on-site infrastructure. For example, we can create proxies of original content and make it available to our in-house compliance teams and client promo teams. At the same time, we can create multiple language files and extract EDL data for client use. From ingest to playout, the entire workflow is visible to all registered parties and can only be accomplished in the cloud.

Are there any downsides?
JF-C Broadcasters should carefully analyse and adapt their operation to minimise the cloud service cost. In some cases, some local operation is required, which makes a ‘pure’ cloud approach inefficient and means moving to a hybrid approach instead. Some broadcasters cannot legally have their content stored outside their country, which might impose limitations on the cloud service provider.

AW Craft editing is a big factor. You’ve got to assess how much you need to do and whether you’re better off adopting a more traditional storage solution. Cloud storage can be very expensive and the movement of high-resolution files between regions is not necessarily cost-effective all the time. Beware the costing models of some cloud providers, which can be impenetrable. Broadly, deep archive in the cloud is cheap, but moving content out or between clouds may not be.

HB For several specific workflows and customers, an on-premise solution is still the best. The two main factors that might prevent its adoption are internet connectivity and cloud storage price. Unfortunately for connectivity, nobody can offer a solution and the client/project will need to wait until the proper connectivity infrastructure is updated. To mitigate against the cost of cloud storage, we mostly recommend hybrid solutions where high-resolution content is kept at the customer facilities, or a local data centre, with low-resolution proxies in the cloud for workflow processes.

PW The only real concern is the challenges of moving big files to and from the cloud. Connectivity needs to catch up. In particular, costs for downloads can quickly mount. It’s important to have a robust means of handling proxies so that downloads of full-resolution media are minimised. Some users may also have security concerns, but in truth, a business like Amazon S3 will have the best security teams available. A single significant loss of privacy and a cloud firm would be out of business. It is rumoured that the [US intelligence agency] CIA uses Amazon Web Services, so it is probably good enough for us.

With multiple delivery channels and devices, programme rights are increasingly complicated. What is the media management solution?

PW Intellectual property rights are hugely complicated and challenging, but ultimately they can be expressed as metadata. Some of that metadata will only ever be seen by the lawyers and IP specialists, but some has to be fully embedded in the asset management platform because it will be vital to ensure reliable operation of automated workflows.

JF-C Media management solutions have to be rights-management aware, with efficient integration with the scheduling/rights management systems. But this is not sufficient. MAM solutions also need to evolve the concept of content rights. This means assigning rights not only to a piece of content and the dates in which that content can be aired, but also to the destination, such as a premium channel. This concept will allow broadcasters to manage delivery operations, such as components, transformations and packaging, combined with the availability per each destination.

How can MAM help content owners use metadata to maximise revenue or earn additional money?

JF-C Distributed access better enables anyone within the organisation to access content from any location. This high level of flexibility means that it’s easier to evolve and amend media services. Time to market is also reduced if the cloud infrastructure is already available. To meet the demands of multi-screen distribution, broadcasters require solutions that enable fast and secure access over the internet protocol, providing automated workflows that package and present content, which can then be delivered to the cloud, as well as to other sites. This should remove the unnecessary complexity caused when working between so many desktops and departments using a local area network.

HB For a MAM implemented to work as a marketplace, metadata has the obvious role of allowing a client to search and get content as fast as possible related to what he is asking for. In a different implementation, metadata can be used to trigger automated, as well as manual, processes or events, as soon as a specific piece of content is detected. Certain metadata can trigger the system, for instance, to send an email to a specific person, to automatically transcode and publish on specified social media. Metadata allied to automation opens an unthinkable number of options.

AW The more metadata you have and hold, the more opportunities it enables. One example: the value in being able to access footage in support of a breaking news story is reliant on being able to locate the clip and bring it into the workflow quickly. The converse is sometimes true: you might need to pull something from the schedule that is suddenly sensitive.

What is the best way of assessing return on investment?

HB In a word, time. Time saved by all the people and groups using the solution by having a centralised MAM and due to the simplification of the process of ingesting and retrieving content is probably the best way to assess the ROI of any MAM implementation.

JF-C There are several ways to measure ROI: compare current operational costs with the time and resources saved; measure business growth as a result of processes optimisation; check, in real-time, the bottlenecks for a specific production. In all cases, MAM solutions need to have reporting mechanisms to allow broadcasters to get all this information, process it and take action.

AW It’s either got to save money or generate money – a good solution should be doing both. There will be, for example, knock-on cost savings in terms of the ongoing operational cost of the technology infrastructure.

PW A MAM should not only be controlling most of the workflows for management and delivery, it should be tracking equipment and staff utilisation, telling the resource planning department precisely how much each process costs. Only then can an enterprise make realistic judgements about what services to offer, how to monetise them and how to achieve strong and reliable revenue streams.

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