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The future of technology rests in the cloud

The Covid-19 pandemic times are widely predicted to change the dynamics of all the industries. One sector that is going to change enormously is media – mainstream digital platforms will become mainstream medium for big players.

When I joined the media industry, an often-heard phrase was change is the only constant.

Media industry tenure dedicated to panel-per-device hardware and video-tape machines, now changing current environment into file-based content and software – IP-based devices, which are capable to multi-task for broadcast. Most importantly, each successive generation tends to be more cost-efficient, IT-centric, accessible, and comes with a heightened sense of ease-of-use for the user, building on the features of their predecessor each time. This is particularly clear with the great leap forward into browser-based user interfaces. In short, the level of change in the broadcast industry in recent years has been close to complete transformation.

It has been observed that an increasing number of broadcast equipment manufacturers have surfaced, promoting their ability to operate in the cloud services. The development of cloud-based services has meant that a television station can control its entire operation in partnership with an established broadcast center. The actual control process, including scheduling and even near-live inserts, is achieved via the public internet regardless of distance. As now two broadcast operations are alike, each installation is configured to match the customer’s specific needs in terms of operating features and desired level of primary/secondary protection. Most customers today use various playout automation technologies to control playout servers based at data centers and head-ends around the world.

Cloud playout, with graphics and branding, allows broadcasters to introduce new channels on an operational expenditure basis rather than investing in dedicated hardware. Established broadcasters, who have already bought their own playout systems, will naturally want to get the maximum-possible life from that investment before considering any change to a new mode of working.

Cloud-based operation completely rewrites the financial model for broadcasters, allowing new channels for tightly specified subjects or regions to be introduced quickly without demanding up-front capital. The cloud model allows entirely new broadcast operations to be activated without the need to configure existing hardware, let alone order new equipment. At the same time, it gives broadcasters the freedom to conduct their entire operation, from content acquisition, refining, and archiving, right through to playout, via a single highly reliable media ecosystem, which can be accessed and managed from practically any location, at any time. In terms of a 24/7 channel starting on the cloud playout model, an efficient telco should be able to get these live in little more time than it takes to send an email or make a phone call.

The full benefits of cloud-based playout are still being realized, with niche channels able to become established within tighter budgets than ever before, and larger players able to introduce channels aligned to specific events, or special-interest supplementary program feeds.

Also, it benefits the technical, transmission, and MCR teams who can manage playout operations from home, and imitate the use of the structure as much as possible and allow as many people as possible to work remotely.

The main task of the broadcasting operators is 24-hour live monitoring of the channels on air, with a watchful eye on the entire main distribution and backup chains, from the signals that enter the video server to delivery to the main broadcasters.

Cloud-based playout interfaces to manage all operations whether in the office or at home. Even the possible management of live broadcasts with contributions coming from various systems, while certainly more complex, are now a possible reality. Once back to normal, as in many other activities, the world of broadcasting will certainly redefine its workflows, and cloud playout will be primary infrastructure to set up any playout channel from anywhere.

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