Applied Technology: Cloud Technology for TV Broadcasters

Cloud computing and broadcasters—they are made for each other. Cloud computing enables global scale of operations, brings tremendous cost savings and enables the worldwide distribution of content.

The broadcast industry is at the cusp of change. The Internet has become a viable and desirable content distribution infrastructure. So much so that it is now possible for broadcasters to distribute their content directly to consumers—no matter where the viewer is located.

However, to support these new opportunities broadcasters need some new technology. That technology is the cloud. It enables the leveraging of utility computing, Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) software and hardware products, which when combined with the cloud’s variable bandwidth enables boundary-less and globally coordinated operations.

Broadcasting is now a global business, and has become an increasingly complex and expensive operation. Globally distributed teams, thousands of content distribution operators worldwide, diversity of technology options in content distribution, and growing fragmentation of viewership are resulting in tremendous challenges in managing global operations in a cost-effective manner.

Cloud flavours

Cloud comes in different flavours, and is one of the most misused words in technical jargon. Largely, there is a consensus that there are three models of cloud- Public, Private and Hybrid. Let’s look at each model.

The public cloud infrastructure is available as a utility service that is used by businesses to buy computing, storage and bandwidth on-demand.

Private clouds are used by companies that want to manage their data and processes in an environment where the company exclusively controls access.

Hybrid clouds are a mix of both public and private cloud technology, with business functions split across these infrastructures depending on the security needs of various functions.

Broadcasting is a content-centric business and it is the crown jewel around which the organization and its workflow revolves. It is critical to have comfort in choosing a cloud architecture that guarantees security of content, combined with the flexibility for accomplishing different business processes.

How can TV broadcasters leverage the cloud

Cloud computing can offer tremendous advantages across a range of business functions.  Let’s look at four key functions that offer immediate and large benefits in a broadcast model.

1.Content flow from content creators to broadcasters

2.Post-production workflows

3.Content delivery to distribution platforms

4.Direct-to-consumer distribution model

Content creator to broadcaster workflow

High resolution content is sourced from multiple locations into a broadcaster’s facility for processing and distribution. All of the needed production tasks can be managed over cloud networks, where content creators and broadcasters are securely connected to cloud storage.

This enables broadcasters to commission content creation from around the globe, and have instant access to early versions of the content for quick feedback. Once the content is complete, the content is pushed to a secure cloud from where it is accessed by broadcasters in any of their facilities, worldwide.

This workflow enables seamless flow of content across geographies and enables review, feedback, and edits discussions to take place in real-time as the content is created.

This workflow enables seamless flow of content across geographies and enables review, feedback, and edits discussions to take place in real-time as the content is created.

Post-production workflow

Post-production on content has always been a large-scale content transfer activity. Large volumes of data is sent to post-production locations and later returned for review. This often leads to inflexible and a long post-production process.

With cloud technology, many companies are reinventing this workflow. Here the master content is stored on a secure cloud. Low-resolution versions are sent to post-production locations where the edits are made. Once the edits on the low-resolution version are reviewed and accepted, these changes are pushed back to the cloud, where these edits are applied on the master content in a batch process.

This workflow provides extreme flexibility and agility in getting post-production activities completed. The entire workflow now becomes location-independent. By sending low-resolution files between locations, time is saved. Moreover, the master content remains secured in one location.

The cloud can also enable auxiliary production tasks to be completed in parallel with the capture and edits.

The cloud can also enable auxiliary production tasks to be completed in parallel with the capture and edits.

The same workflow can be extended to subtitle and voice-over services. This permits work to be undertaken in parallel. This means the final master is baked in the cloud complete with all the edits, tracks, subtitle, and metadata already in place, ready for playout and distribution.

Content delivery to distribution platforms

All content delivery on linear feeds have historically used satellite. While satellites can provide a large geographic reach, their use remains expensive.

As TV networks started expanding across the globe, they had to confront several challenges. While content regulations were country-specific, advertising needs were regional in nature. These divergent requirements translated into creating multiple different linear feeds for different countries. Delivering these linear feeds via satellite often challenged available budgets.

Today’s solution is to use the cloud for content storage and combine that with edge playout devices. Edge playout takes place at any number of distribution head-ends across the desired regions. The edge servers receive the content via the public Internet and are controlled and monitored over a cloud infrastructure. This model results in it being possible to air linear TV channels worldwide without the expense of satellite.

For TV networks wanting to reach multiple geographies, a cloud-based broadcast infrastructure delivers tremendous benefits in terms of cost savings and worldwide manageability. Multiple networks around the globe are already leveraging this model to either augment their existing satellite feed with a few hours of local content in specific geographies. Some networks have even implemented a complete edge channel playout infrastructure model.

The Amagi cloud playout infrastructure has been deployed by multiple TV networks worldwide, with an SLA of 99.99% uptime guarantee.

The Amagi cloud playout infrastructure has been deployed by multiple TV networks worldwide, with an SLA of 99.99% uptime guarantee.

Direct-to-consumer distribution model

With the increase in Internet bandwidth to homes, and rapid proliferation of mobile devices, TV networks and content owners can now deliver their content directly to consumers via an Over-The-Top (OTT) infrastructure.

The Internet, combined with cloud computing, can enable the use of OTT models to deliver on-demand content to a variety of playback devices.

The Internet, combined with cloud computing, can enable the use of OTT models to deliver on-demand content to a variety of playback devices.

The content is stored in the cloud, and delivered via OTT to viewers’ phones, tablets and computers. Viewers receive linear, on-demand video through the content owner’s own branded apps and web portals.

Amagi provides an end-to-end hosted OTT platform, which TV networks and content owners can use to create linear and on-demand channels, market and distribute it to end-consumers. Amagi has also integrated mid-roll Ad monetization capabilities to generate revenue for TV networks through content viewership.

Conclusion

To be successful in today’s fast-pace marketplace, a broadcaster has to re-examine their current broadcast infrastructure model. Reaching new markets and providing global content coverage requires new ideas. The solution is to use the Internet and a cloud computing infrastructure. Only then can broadcasters and content owners scale their business as needed to remain competitive. By embracing the cloud, broadcasters can future-proof both their investments and their businesses for the next decade.

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