Cost, speed, volume and COVID have accelerated the broadcast industry’s move to remote production as entire workflows for live events and beyond have been moved to the cloud.
Just consider cost alone. It was estimated in 2018 that the NFL Network spends roughly $1 million for each game it produces, with TV operating costs approximately $200 million a year at that point.
READ MORE: Industry Voices—Sachs: What would it take for the NFL to go direct-to-consumer? (Fierce Video)
In the UK, the BBC estimates that one-time live events and performances cost between £40,000 and £400,000 per hour to buy-in from third-party producers.
READ MORE: BBC tariff range of indicative prices for the supply of commissioned television programs (BBC)
The costs in both examples are made up of multiple elements, including logistics, staffing, facilities, talent, production and content distribution. Critically, the pandemic has highlighted the need to run many more of these workflows remotely — enabling not just safe social distancing but better efficiency and unprecedented flexibility.
“This all adds up to an urgent need for more varied and creative approaches to the production process,” cloud-based production platform The Switch says in a new report. “Cloud-based TV production can play a key role.”
It’s already clear that the cost-effectiveness, flexibility, efficiency and speed of cloud-based TV production will be a transformational force in the growth and development of media with few if any exceptions.
Live and near-live sports, esports, entertainment and enterprise applications will lead adoption.
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“Finding ways to get more live games and other events to viewers without breaking budgets makes cloud-based production a clear option for many sports leagues and rights holders as they look to meet future demand,” says The Switch report.
All aspects of the live production workflow, from editing and graphics creation to communications and talk-back, can be handled inside the cloud. Onward distribution via OTT services or private fiber network ensures livestreams can reach viewers globally. Additional functionality includes support for sports data feeds, contribution connectivity, contribution encoding equipment, program distribution and production staffing. Cloud production crucially enables a centralization of human resources to reduce the cost of travel and logistics.
“Cloud-based production has emerged as a technology and service combination whose time has come — and its role will only expand moving forward.”— The Switch
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The cloud can also be employed for the delivery of near real-time “secondary event” productions. In this scenario, per The Switch, shoulder programming around major sports events, such as a special preview show framing the narrative ahead of the big game or analysis on the betting outlook, can be produced via the cloud as a separate feed. In other cases, the contribution feeds, like those going from a football game to a traditional broadcaster, for example, can be split — with a spur heading into the cloud production service.
The cloud is foundational to the future of M&E, so it’s crucial to understand how to leverage it for all kinds of applications. Whether you’re a creative working in production or a systems engineer designing a content library, cloud solutions will change your work life. Check out these cloud-focused insights hand-picked from the NAB Amplify archives:
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Events can be covered with 20 or more cameras, the standard outside broadcast inventory with all feeds ingested into and switched in the cloud.
Speed is crucial to capitalizing on the immediacy of an event and represents a huge difference in value for subscribers and advertisers alike, especially for social platforms.
“The time between many sports coverage feeds coming into the cloud and a highlight package being made available on video-enabled social platforms could be measured in minutes — and with every few seconds of delay, rights holders risk losing viewership to rivals and pirated content sources.”
Although live is where the cloud production really shines, the platform is also suitable for file-based workflows where its biggest strength is to simplify distribution into social/OTT platforms that have a direct off-ramp.
According to The Switch, the outputs can be encoded to any number of device/bitrate profiles along with file-based packages for distribution; “social/OTT producers now have a dedicated platform that is fit for purpose.”
For less high-profile sports and ad-hoc or one-off live events, cloud-based production opens the way for broadcast-quality packages — removing the cost and complexity that can burden traditional production models.
“Finding ways to get more live games and other events to viewers without breaking budgets makes cloud-based production a clear option for many sports leagues and rights holders as they look to meet future demand.”— The Switch
Again, all of the elements, such as graphics, audio and access to archive footage are accessible from the single cloud environment. By using IP network connectivity, and delivering via an end-to-end platform, capacity can scale up for only the duration of the event and then cease.
The vendor points to a near future in which social media-based content delivery starts to offer revenue potential “on par with that of traditional TV and pay-TV business models.” What began as a sideline, it adds, is likely to swiftly evolve into a profit center.
That means cloud-centric models are likely to see technologies, such as ad-insertion, viewer interactivity and AI-based automation added as optional layers.
“Cloud-based production has emerged as a technology and service combination whose time has come,” notes The Switch, “and its role will only expand moving forward.”