So last week saw me, along with 56 thousand others, attending IBC 2016 in Amsterdam. The premier event for anyone involved in the business of creating, managing and delivering entertainment and news content.
The first thing to share is that it was busy, amazingly busy. I was blown away by the scale of the event: the sheer number of attendees, the endless exhibition halls, the queue at the taxi stand. It was overwhelming at times, but you could sense the hunger to learn, and the desire to stay ahead of the upcoming trends in media.
And without doubt, the subject of the cloud dominated conversations. We heard stories of how it’s adding mobility and faster delivery to workforces – something that shouldn’t be of surprise to anyone familiar with Drop Everything. There also seems to be a groundswell of support for the theory that cloud will be touching every piece of the broadcast workflow - from creation, to editing, to distribution - within the next few years.
After all, in the words of Mark Harrison, Managing Director of the Digital Production Partnership: “What happens when your media company goes global but your budgets are smaller? You need to find a technology that cuts costs but increases agility - the cloud enables you to do that.”
The Digital Production Partnership (DPP) was set up to help the media industry respond to the extraordinary pace of technological change. And fresh from my time at IBC, I wanted to find out more from Mark about how the media industry has, and continues to evolve, and get his advice for media companies on keeping up.
Firstly Mark, what are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the media industry since setting up DPP?
Interestingly, although we’ve only been around for a few years, we’ve already shifted our focus from broadcast to media. That’s because video is driving the Internet so much now, that there is more audio-visual content made for non-broadcast use than for broadcast use. This shift from broadcast to media has been enabled by the Internet and emergence of cloud technologies.
With smaller budgets, media companies have to find a way around things in order to survive; cloud services, which offer subscription models, became the ideal solution for managing costs. And, as a result, the industry is having to move from a culture of working with people, to one of reliance/trust in IT systems and technology.
How are vendor/media company relationships evolving as a result of the cloud?
Broadly I believe there’s a trend towards greater outsourcing. But the most interesting change to the vendor model is that media companies are moving away from relationships with key vendors - that provide multiple services - to working with a number of small vendors, which specialise in each part of the supply chain.
Although this is a model we at DPP believe can work well, it does put reliance on vendors to truly work well together; it pushes a culture of openness between competitors. There’s a role here for the big players in the industry to act as gatekeepers, and help to handle complexities in the supply chain on behalf of the customer.
Ultimately vendors that understand the importance of working better together will survive, while those that fail to collaborate and form partnerships will struggle.
So why haven’t all media companies adopted cloud technology – what’s holding them back?
The challenge, based on our conversations with media organisations, is fear of the unknown. Cloud technology is still relatively new and unfamiliar; what’s needed is a leap of faith and a willingness to embrace the fact that there are a number of cloud technologies out there which will transform working practices and speed up time to market.
Security and risk are undoubtedly the bedrock of those fears but sharing and editing content through a cloud based vendor is often now the best and most efficient way of working.
What advice do you have for media companies wanting to sell cloud into the business?
Often we speak to companies who acknowledge that they have to embrace cloud but are put off by being tied into existing legacy contracts. The thing you need to ask yourself is whether it’s cheaper, in the long run, to write off outdated vendor contracts and leap more quickly to an operational model - I suspect sometimes it could be.
My best advice is that instead of waiting for the perfect time to push the button, look into what the long term benefits could be of deliberately pressing it early. Perhaps there are times where you would be wise to cancel outdated contracts in order to incur the long term benefits that come with a cloud based model.
Will cloud providers who offer the ability to share large files in the cloud become more important to media companies in the future?
Definitely. In fact, in our most recent survey we found that 75% of production companies either already are, or expect to be, producing Ultra High Definition (UHD) content in the next 12 months. The Catch-22 however is that although UHD has become a reality, most media companies have inadequate connectivity to deal with UHD, meaning they won’t be able to access the cloud services that would enable them to share the files they create.
Once the cost and availability of connectivity has caught up with business needs – as they surely will - a company like Dropbox can become a major hub for media companies in the future, almost like air traffic control for media content and IP. Major established cloud vendors like Dropbox can help to build trust in cloud services – and establish international standards for cloud-based services.