What Does it Actually Mean for MAM to Move to the Cloud?

Cloud technology is arguably one of the most significant topics of discussion in our industry right now. Broadcasters are starting to move big parts of their workflows to the cloud. Indeed, in a recent cloud video transformation survey, 14.5% of respondents say their content distribution workflow is now 100% cloud-based. A further 30.1% claim over 50% of their distribution workflow is cloud-based.

The move to cloud infrastructures will have some major implications for the technology providers right through the chain. Media Asset Management is one area where I believe we need some significant changes if the sector wants to keep up with the rapid rate of change in this industry. Customers will demand MAM as a utility service. MAM will have to be ubiquitous like water, electricity and mobile coverage. If not, MAM will simply become redundant.

The birth of MAM

MAM as we know it today first exploded onto the scene around 15 years ago with vendors like Dalet, Ardendo (since acquired by Vizrt), and Blueorder (since acquired by Avid). At that time, broadcasters were making the first forays into digitalisation and with that came more complexity and a number of efficiency challenges when it came to managing a rise in digital content.

The first MAMs were highly bespoke and usually involved a significant upfront investment. The first MAMs also meant on-premise installations. However, the value of being able to properly manage huge amounts of media files, something simply not possible previously, and the subsequent leap in efficiency for broadcasters meant it was well worth the investment in time, money, and valuable space. And so what we saw was more content for less effort and some very happy broadcasters – and happy MAM providers.

The rise of the cloud

Over recent years the cloud has steadily become the new buzz word. Technology started to emerge and a few years ago we saw the first early adopters experimenting with cloud infrastructures. As we well know, this brought a number of important efficiencies and as those became more apparent and as technology progressed further, cloud stopped being an experiment and started to see much wider adoption.

Fast forward to today and Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) is close to a de facto standard. The use of cloud technology is set to increase further, especially as it has obvious benefits when it comes to both efficiency and cost efficiency. The obvious benefit of cloud is that you can scale up and down at anytime to suit current needs, meaning you are not paying for unused services and solutions. Being able to easily scale enables small companies to compete in the same space as the major players, whilst giving them access to advanced technology, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI). Besides the technology benefits, the flexible pricing models in real cloud services allow companies to innovate in terms of business models.

Broadcasters are looking to compete in a crowded marketplace, where consumers are used to content anywhere and anytime. The “born cloud” media companies, such as Netflix and YouTube are not only delivering that in an unprecedented way, but they are also benefiting from massive efficiencies thanks to that cloud environment. But it is not only the giants challenging the marketplace, the competition is coming from startups with no legacy, no respect for “how things always been done” and often deep pockets. This is creating a race for efficiency, with the traditional providers looking to the cloud to bring them those same efficiencies. In the near future, we will see the rise of Platform-as-a-cloud (PaaS), and broadcasters will more and more be looking to gain cloud efficiencies throughout the entire broadcast chain.

What does cloud mean for MAM?

Up until now, cloud has mostly meant distribution via the cloud and has had very minimal impact on the MAM providers, and perhaps because of that, many MAM companies have been sitting back on their laurels a little too long. As we move to a “born cloud, delivered cloud” reality, with content being curated completely on the cloud, the impact for MAM providers is set to shift.

The problem is that for many MAM providers, nothing much has changed in the last 15 years. With unwieldy systems designed for one type of user – large broadcasters and the same way of managing files, they are simply going to become obsolete as they cannot be used in that way anymore. This is already causing problems without the cloud, as workflows have changed so much over the past decades, as have the types of companies delivering media, from multinational traditional broadcasters, through small media companies, to businesses using video for marketing. A large unwieldy MAM set in its ways is not going to work for most content providers.

With the cloud, it gets even more important. When efficiency is at the forefront of everyone’s mind, really good automation and standardisation will be crucial, as will having a MAM that actually sits natively in the cloud environment itself.

With cloud becoming widely used, what MAM needs to be is a highly automated utility service. Just like your electricity is just there, ready to be used when you need it and you can access as much or as little as you like, whilst only paying for the bits you actually use. No other method makes sense for utility services and MAM needs to follow that same model. All the functions of a MAM should be ready to be accessed at any time as separate services, without the content provider having to purchase that full functionality up front. This also means new, flexible business and pricing models.

Is there a future for MAM?

MAM systems serve a very important function, that will only get more important as the amount of content being produced increases, along with the variety of platforms it needs to be delivered to. However, MAM as we know it is outdated. It is time for MAM providers to step up and deliver solutions for the future of media delivery, not just the present day. Cloud offerings need to be true cloud offerings, not just repurposed, and flexibility needs to be key. Unless solutions transform to work more like utility services, MAMs as we know them today, will simply become redundant.

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