The M&E Industry’s Five Most Important Technology Trends of 2018
New year. New urgency.
The writing has been on the wall for several years. But now, entering 2018, it’s a bit bolder — and possibly in all caps. Broadcasters, content distributors and other organizations that inhabit the media and entertainment ecosystem understand that the inertia that has been building for the past few years around alternative content distribution and consumption models is coming to a head.
They understand that if they are to be a factor in an era of increased personalization, where consumers have an unprecedented number of sources for their video entertainment and a growing diversity of options for consuming it, they need to inject their infrastructures and business models with new levels of agility, malleability and cost effectiveness. And they need to do it soon.
They also understand that the modernization of their technology foundations is not something that happens overnight and that navigating the transition from their existing infrastructures to next-generation architectures requires both a steady hand and precision budgeting. With that in mind, what follows is a list of the five technologies trends that will play the most pivotal roles in assisting media companies in making the coming year their most productive to date in positioning their businesses for the future.
AI is everywhere. And its ability to turn mountains of data into manageable mole hills is what makes it so special. Media companies are only beginning to understand how to harness the power of AI to instantly glean insights out of information that it would take a team of humans countless hours or even years to wade through. Today, AI and machine learning is being used by media companies largely to pull relevant information from big piles of data to improve the accuracy of targeted advertising and content discovery, or assist media companies in the assignment of resources. Still in the experimental stage is the use of AI to take over tasks now performed by humans, such as creating promotional trailers or generating the text for closed captioning.
It is the latter usage of AI that poses the greatest challenge to media companies in 2018. AI’s evil side, at least by way of perception, is that it holds the potential to disrupt the workforce, usurping jobs that are now held by engineers, operators and other media professionals. Media companies need to be discriminating in how they employ AI in their pursuit of streamlining procedures or reducing costs in 2018. The focus should be on deploying AI as an augmentation to the current workforce, proving engineers and other media professions with added insights that will increase their efficiency and free them up to focus on enriching the customer experience.
Never underestimate the power of tiny packages. That might make a good motto for broadcast engineers and others going into 2018 who want to make sure they are getting the most out of the migration of their operations. A great place to start for finding out more about microservices and why they matter to the media and entertainment industry can be found here. But the bottom line is that if broadcasters and other media companies want to be on an even playing field with Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, Google and other native-IP challengers, they need to begin embracing the many benefits of a microservices design architecture.
The most important and direct step in that direction for media companies to take in 2018 is to make sure they understand the difference between cloud-native and the merely cloud-enabled. Going the latter route, which essentially means repositioning existing hardware-based applications in a virtual environment, amounts to making a major detour on your way to a technology infrastructure that can adapt and expand to accommodate current and future market demands. When it comes to the adoption of a microservices-based architecture, accept no imitation.
Specialized Hardware to Specialized Software
A cousin to moving to microservices, the continued transition of media operations from purpose-built hardware to environments that utilize commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) equipment might be the biggest enabler of the flexibility and agility that media companies will need in the future. By severing dependency on specialized hardware, media companies are free to port operations to any environment — premises-based, cloud or a mixture of the two — and to scale them instantaneously and in direct proportion to current demand. Hardware independence also means continuous innovation, as media companies can incorporate new technologies and new capabilities essentially on the fly and without the aid of a forklift.
But similar to the transition from SDI to IP, media companies will need to employ a hybrid model for the foreseeable future. COTS compute resources, though doubling in processing power roughly every two years, tend to fall short of the computation demands of the most intensive media processing chores, requiring most media companies to continue to rely on some form of hardware acceleration. But the more aggressive media companies can be in migrating those operations that can be executed on COTS equipment in 2018, the closer they will be to revitalizing their infrastructures.
Personalizing the content consumption experience means almost nothing if you can’t monetize it. To do that, broadcasters and others will need a flexible and dynamic approach to advertising that knows no boundaries. That means delivering fresh and targeted ads to audiences regardless of the distribution method, be it broadcast or OTT, or the consumption model, be it linear or on demand. It also means making the most of your commercial air time through precision optimization of existing inventory, wherever it resides.
For the past several years, broadcasters and distributors have experienced a disturbing trend: an increase in content delivery unaccompanied by a proportional increase in ad revenue. Investing in business systems and ad insertion technologies that better enable media companies to monetize all of their content in an efficient and coordinated manner will be a critical requirement in 2018.
Easier Migration Models
On the surface, it appears that finding easier and more financially friendly ways to migrate from traditional technology and business systems to next-gen architectures is more of an operational aspiration than a technical challenge. But that’s not the case for many media companies, which possess the ambition to accelerate their transitions but are stymied by the inflexibility of current purchasing options from technology partners.
The onus for rectifying this issue in 2018 falls on technology suppliers. A clear goal of technology innovators in the coming year is to become intimate with their customers’ operating models, not just their infrastructures. And, armed with that knowledge, they must offer more flexible and creative ways for media companies to seamlessly evolve their operations to meet the demands of video consumers – in 2018 and beyond.