The days of traditional broadcasting are numbered and broadcasting via cloud is the new normal, the Tokyo Olympics are evidence of this phenomenal breakthrough
Amagi, an Indian broadcasting cloud solutions provider has, by deploying UHD playout and cloud automation solutions in the Tokyo Olympics, set the narrative for Indian broadcasters. With these cloud solutions, broadcasters can empower their processes and create unparalleled experiences for their viewers, breaking away from the current archaic work system.
Anushruti Singh August 14, 2021
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The Tokyo Olympics finally came to an end after many COVID-induced obstacles, commercial setbacks, and numerous thrilling moments.
And it won’t be wrong to say that this highly anticipated sporting event would have meant different things to different people. However, for the broadcasting industry, it was a tech extravaganza.
This time around, the Olympics pushed the boundaries of sports technology, including the broadcasting magic that transports viewers from their couches right into the thick of the action.
In 1996, approximately 170 hours of content was produced during the Atlanta Olympics. But the numbers for Tokyo 2020 are exponentially higher.
NBC Universal had over 7,000 hours of content across all broadcast and cable platforms, as well as live streaming. Consider that the first day alone had double or triple the amount of total content as compared to the Olympics in 1996 — with roughly 400 hours of content per day.
At the heart of this production effort were a variety of tools and solutions.
And cloud has been at the core of it all, indicating that cloud technology is the way for the future of broadcasting—and in a big way.
“The Olympics were an incredible opportunity for media technology providers to demonstrate the capabilities of their solutions,” says Baskar Subramanian, Co-founder and CEO at Amagi, an India-based next-gen media tech company, which stood out as a cloud broadcasting and live streaming partner at the XXXII Olympic games.
“An event of this scale, which gathers millions of fans from all over the world, had to be backed by advanced technologies that replicated the energy of the event on live screens, while ensuring a high-quality viewing experience,” he said while speaking to SME Futures.
One in many opportunities
“The event gave us the chance to prove how every aspect of live sports broadcasting could be enhanced through cloud architected solutions,” says Subramanian.
They provided the sport event with their award-winning cloud playout platform, Amagi CLOUDPORT, and their live sports/news automation solution, Amagi LIVE, created the Olympic Channel’s live coverage in UHD.
“We deployed cloud automated 4K UHD playout, which is the most advanced solution currently available in the market and other new cutting-edge technologies for the NBC Sports Group’s production of the XXXII Olympic games,” he further informs us.
One of the facts about broadcasting over cloud is that transmitting SD & HD content over it is quite challenging.
But Amagi was able to go above and beyond these challenges and supported the broadcasters with rich, high-quality visuals. It’s main offering to NBC Olympics was the UHD playout of its 4K live feeds, which is a rare and unique capability in a technology provider.
Additionally, Amagi’s cloud native solutions can be customised to the specific needs of a live event broadcast. For instance, a broadcaster might choose to run multiple channels during a particular event, which they can bring down once the event is over. This means that the resources it employs for live transmission can be scaled up and down as per the need, saving the broadcasters a lot of expenses which they would otherwise have incurred while using the traditional hardware systems, according to Subramanian.
The technology also enables live recording which can be scheduled to play at a later time of the day, thereby generating live-live, live-recorded and deferred live content.
“As far as modern transmission technologies are concerned, this is a monumental achievement. Another factor that is contributing to the reduction of opex for the broadcaster is Amagi’s use of standard off-the-shelf CPUs instead of GPUs, for image processing. Despite the use of CPUs, the quality of the broadcast remains high-end, as tested and evidenced by the NBC Sports Group,” he avers.
For Amagi, the Olympics were a marquee show, which brought them into the limelight globally.
“The opportunity has favourably impacted not only Amagi, but the cloud broadcast industry in general. It has established the cloud as the future of television,” asserts Subramanian.
We all know that lately there has been an explosive growth in D2C offerings and a huge demand for compelling, relevant and new content. This has led to most broadcasters deciding to switch to hybrid models and cloud production.
To put it simply, cloud has now made inroads into media distribution, playout and live production, and Amagi with its cloud-first mindset is making this possible.
How cloud is the next big game changer
Until now, the media landscape has been dominated by hardware-based solutions that are costly, inflexible, and closed systems. Furthermore, it is a time-consuming process to procure, configure the production and the hardware, and appropriately assign the task each time, and it involves extensive workflows via satellites and large teams on-site.
However, smart cloud technology has changed the way the process works today, bringing more flexibility and agility, as well as ultra-HD footage acquisition capabilities and a close to minimal need for hardware with an easy content distribution process. It improves operational and business efficiencies while assisting traditional broadcasters in overcoming legacy workflow challenges.
And the Olympics adopting cloud broadcasting is just the breakthrough that this sector needed. The future certainly belongs to cloud broadcasting technology.
Subramanian agrees, saying that the broadcast of the Olympics conclusively proves the fact that solutions architectured on the cloud have a decided edge over traditional hardware-intensive systems.
“The cloud allows broadcasters to use technologies to suit their business needs instead of creating business models around their existing hardware infrastructure, which had been the case until now. In that sense, cloud became the saviour of an industry which was otherwise encumbered by the limitations of an archaic working mechanism,” he comments.
According to market insights, geographically, being an early adopter and with a substantial presence of solutions providers, North America is expected to hold a significant percentage of the cloud broadcasting solutions market share over the forecast period from 2018 to 2026.
Further, countries with a large population base such as India and China and the significant proliferation of mobile devices in them are expected to have a positive impact on the cloud broadcasting solutions market in Asia Pacific.
The pandemic was the catalyst
Even before COVID happened, more and more media industry players had plans for and spoke favourably about working with cloud technology. But the overall increase in the spending on cloud was growing at only a gradual and slow pace.
But the pandemic has accelerated the change and has transformed the broadcasting sector. In this past one year, Amagi has been at the forefront of the transformations that have taken place in the media and entertainment industry.
“It was an eye opener for many in the industry to witness the inherent advantages of the cloud, which offers modern solutions to media players using conventional, heavy infrastructure-laden systems,” says Subramanian.
Talking about this sea change, he says that there has been an increase in demand on two fronts. Firstly, for the virtualisation of workflows from the traditional broadcast TV networks and secondly, for a linear TV like experience from the viewers.
“These two have been the most notable trends to emerge as a direct consequence of the pandemic,” he points out.
Subramanian says that during the lockdowns, continuing on-premises workflows became the main challenge for the broadcasters. And Amagi assisted them with the latest solutions.
“Amagi’s cloud-based technologies allow you to run your operations seamlessly from remote locations, all through a simple web user interface. It allows you to spin up channels on the go and derive revenues from it by using advanced ad insertion capabilities and analytics,” he tells us.
He further says that Amagi’s cloud solutions, tailored at creating, distributing and monetising live linear channels over satellite, fibre and IP, were instrumental in enabling them to tide over the crisis, while maintaining the high-quality standards of broadcasting.
The company’s portfolio also includes deep integrations with multiple Free Ad Supported Streaming (FAST) TV platforms globally, which is a tremendous asset for content owners who want to reach a wider audience.
Moreover, with the increasing popularity of connected TV among streaming media viewers around the world, Amagi is well-positioned to connect content owners to FAST platforms, thereby catering to the needs of both the broadcasters and the viewers.
Amagi: The journey began in 2008
Since we are talking about Amagi’s contribution to the cloud broadcasting sector, it’s important to know that their journey began way back when cloud was almost unknown to most people.
Ever since then, Amagi has been a pioneer in the use of cloud in the media & entertainment industry.
When they started, cloud was a relatively new concept, and the entertainment sector was largely driven by hardware-based technology players.
In a relatively new field, Amagi began envisioning cloud-architected products that would transform the TV industry. And over the years, the firm has designed solutions that are taking media businesses to new heights and making processes more hi-tech.
Subramanian tells us that over the years, Amagi has created unique solutions that have favourably impacted every stage of the broadcasting workflow, from channel creation and playout to ad monetisation and viewership analytics.
“Amagi works with broadcast and cable TV networks, content creators and streaming platforms across the globe to manage, move and monetize content and reach audiences regionally and globally. Today, Amagi is one of the largest cloud playout providers in the world with 800+ playout chains on its platform and a comprehensive distribution coverage for content owners spanning the USA, Latin America, Europe and Asia,” he adds.
With this, Amagi has become a global leader in SaaS technology, providing end-to-end live and on-demand video infrastructure for TV and OTT. Recently it announced a sequential growth of 18 per cent in revenue in the quarter ending June 2021, amid a strong global demand for CTV-led free ad supported streaming TV solutions.
According to a media report, the company’s revenue in the quarter grew 110 per cent year on year, and it also saw a 19 per cent increase in customer acquisition quarter-on-quarter.
Meanwhile, through Amagi’s cloud native solutions, TV networks are able to increase their revenues and reduce operational costs.
Box full of cloud solutions
Amagi offers three business models for customers to choose from – Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), ‘Bring your own license’, and a Fully Managed Service. Subramanian tells us about some of them in brief.
“As Amagi places the viewer at the front and centre of all its innovations, each of its technologies has contributed to building an ecosystem where the broadcaster is able to keep pace with the changing viewership trends, thereby always remaining relevant,” he says.
Its portfolio includes Amagi CLOUDPORT, an award-winning broadcast-grade channel playout platform that supports the launch and distribution of live linear channels on the go. The solution enables content asset management through its simple web interface. Then complementary to Amagi CLOUDPORT is the lightweight channel scheduling platform, Amagi PLANNER and the live orchestration platform, Amagi LIVE.
“Content owners can not only build and distribute their content, but also manage their content assets remotely, enhance it with feature rich graphics and transmit live content with very low levels of latency using these solutions,” he informs us.
Other solutions such as, Amagi THUNDERSTORM, the dynamic server-side ad insertion platform, helps to effectively monetise live, linear and VOD content.
“Content owners and distribution platforms can use this technology to insert personalised, in-stream ads, without requiring any customisation to the streaming applications on the user’s device. The full suite of Amagi’s ad technology, which includes Amagi ADS PLUS, a virtual ad sales service to minimize ad inventories and Amagi ANALYTICS, a comprehensive viewership and ad analytics platform, have opened up new revenue streams for rights owners, OTT platforms and Pay TV networks,” Subramanian tells us.
The future is bright
The broadcasting industry is undergoing a major transformation and remote and virtual productions are in great demand. To fulfil these new normal demands, what they need are cloud broadcasting solutions which will enable them to overcome the traditional challenges that have bogged them down for decades.
According to Amagi, down the line, the broadcasting and media industry will continue to work on their tech capabilities, graduating to hybrid operations from on-premises operations and then finally moving on to the cloud, but it’s going to take time.
Meanwhile, being a leader in the media and broadcasting cloud services sector, it’s going to continue its innovative streak. In terms of new markets, Amagi intends to consolidate its leadership in the connected TV and Free Ad Supported Streaming (FAST) TV space.
“I believe that the future of TV is headed the FAST way,” says Subramanian.
A connected TV refers to a TV that helps users to watch videos with the help of internet connectivity. The rising disposable incomes of its users along with their increasing investments in electronic entertainment devices is influencing the growth of the connected TV market.
Another area that Amagi is making deep inroads into is of data and analytics.
“Content owners and OTT platforms are keen to gain a deeper understanding of viewership trends and build their programming and ad strategies around it. Amagi’s analytics tools give a comprehensive view of viewership metrics such as unique views, sessions, average viewing time, total viewership, concurrent users, and more, which can be a tremendous value add for the players in the broadcasting and streaming TV ecosystem,” he says. Subramanian concludes by saying that the future definitely belongs to cloud technology and there should be no hesitation on anyone’s part about adopting it wholeheartedly.