Look up: Why the future for media companies lies in the cloud

Mobile technologies have fundamentally changed the way people consume content. This has had a significant impact on TV viewing habits, especially on younger audiences. According to the latest Nielsen Total Audience Report, older millennials aged 28-36 watch 25% less television than the same age group did just five years ago. For teenagers and young millennials aged 18-27 this figure increases to an incredible 40%. This trend is only amplified by the rise of OTT media services. Netflix currently has over 109 million subscribers worldwide while Spotify has about 50 million paying users and many millions more that use the service for free. On top of that, over 87% of viewers now use a second screen device when they do watch TV content. 

Traditional TV clearly has to change and adapt to the viewing habits of today’s audiences. But in order to make this transformation, media companies need to change the way they produce and distribute content. The missing link for many companies is the cloud, which enables greater audience engagement and delivers dynamic and efficient media operations. Most importantly though, it increases the speed of distribution and overall availability. So, with all those obvious benefits, why is cloud adoption among media companies so much slower than in other industries? 

A decentralised industry 

Unlike other sectors, the media industry is highly fragmented. Workflow is rarely managed in one place but rather spread out across a network of organisations, all tasked with looking after different aspects of the production and distribution process. Such a collaborative workflow obviously has its advantages. But when it comes to introducing new technologies, it can become cumbersome as every single organisation needs to be on board for it to have an actual impact. 

Additionally, on a more granular level, the introduction of cloud technologies often means a complete change in working practices for media companies. Operating a virtual switch is a different affair to operating a physical switch. Equally, sourcing video content from a physical medium works quite differently to accessing it via the cloud. Migrating to the cloud is much more than just introducing a new technology to a process. It often means retraining people and completely redefining workflows.   

Like every sector, broadcasters are operating under budget constraints and are reluctant to move to the cloud whilst their investment in physical infrastructure still works. But while those concerns are understandable, they are relatively easy to overcome as the roll out of cloud technologies can be phased. In a decentralised media environment, this means organisations gradually migrate to the cloud, giving each one of them the freedom to do this transition at their own pace. Equally, any new system, technology or process requires employees to be retrained. Most organisations already have solid training and development processes in place to familiarise employees with innovations and cloud technologies shouldn’t be treated any differently. Training courses and experts that can be on hand to assist can help ease this transition. Lastly, the process of moving to the cloud is actually much more straightforward and less painful than most broadcasters think. Most operations that are done on legacy equipment can be migrated to the cloud, and, if not already, are quite possibly being rapidly investigated right now. On top of that, there is the option to phase the roll out and ensure companies get the best lease of life out of their equipment. 

Many international organisations have successfully migrated all or part of their operations to the cloud and adapted their offering to the needs of modern audiences – and there are many more that are following suit. But it’s not just the big players in the market that can benefit from cloud technologies. Thanks to its scalability, the cloud can facilitate any kind of project, from small independent movie productions to live-streaming international film festivals. 

Paving the way for the future 

Media companies that have made the step to migrate to the cloud often say how much easier it was than they expected and how quickly they have realised a business impact from that transition. A key benefit of cloud technologies is increased operational efficiency. If content is being uploaded to the cloud as soon as it is being recorded, the process of creating the finished product is significantly accelerated as directors, producers, editors, sound engineers and anyone else that needs to can access and work off the content in real time.

Quick access to content also helps with audience engagement. Creating great content is no longer enough for media companies to connect with younger generations that are used to instant gratification. The content also needs to be available to them as quickly as possible and across as many devices as possible. Frictionless distribution enabled by the cloud means that content turnaround time for media companies can often be reduced from a week or longer to just a couple of hours. 

In addition to facilitating archiving and compliance, transferring historic content that used to sit on tapes and discs into the cloud can also create additional revenue streams. By providing users access to their archives, media companies and broadcasters in particular can monetise this service and make content that would otherwise just sit idly in their archives, work for them. A lot of organisations are partnering with OTT streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime to distribute and monetise their archived content. 

Media companies have arrived at a crucial point in time where they need to adapt to the changing technology landscape if they want to connect to today’s demanding audiences. Modern viewing habits like using multiple screens while consuming content or experiencing sporting events through virtual reality are all fundamentally built around the cloud. The good news is, cloud technologies have been successfully tried and tested by other industries that are now reaping the rewards. It is time for the media sector to do the same and embrace cloud technologies if they want to stay relevant in the future.    

Stuart Almond, Head of Marketing and Communications at Sony Professional Europe 

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