Why Cloud Services are Here to Stay for Media & Entertainment

During the COVID-19 pandemic, media and entertainment (M&E) organizations accelerated their need to undertake a digital transformation. As we approach a post-pandemic world, M&E companies are realizing that their digital transformation is no longer just a short-term solution, but rather, it is a long-term necessity to survive the increasingly competitive and saturated landscape of content distribution and consumption. Cloud service providers play a crucial role to M&E brands as they continue their digital evolution. Throughout the pandemic, cloud solutions allowed M&E companies to adapt efficiently and effectively. Beyond the landscape of COVID-19, a cloud-based framework will continue to facilitate agility and scalability in the M&E business model.  

How COVID-19 Impacted the Media and Entertainment Industry

When COVID-19 created an unprecedented environment and altered our daily operations, people and businesses had to rapidly adjust to the new circumstances. In particular, the M&E industry faced a reckoning that was imminent before the pandemic and became more acute during the pandemic.

For M&E businesses, COVID-19 forced upon them an important pivotal point in their digital strategy. The pandemic didn’t present vastly new challenges for M&E organizations, it simply accelerated and highlighted the problems they had already begun experiencing in the last five or so years. Viewer behavior is one of the biggest shake-ups in the M&E industry. Prior to 2020, audiences were already hunting for new ways to consume content. Traditional linear broadcast was waning and modern digital streaming services were booming. Media content consumption was drastically changing, as audiences streamed content on different devices, such as their smartphones, tablets, connected TVs, PCs, and gaming consoles. Now, legacy M&E brands are no longer competing just against nimble new players in the streaming space, but they are also competing against music, gaming, and esport platforms. All of these trends that were in motion pre-pandemic became more apparent after society began sheltering-in-place.

With most of the United States going remote, industry giants, like Warner Brothers and Disney, pivoted their focus to streaming content to adjust to shelter-in-place orders. In an unprecedented move, Warner Brothers began releasing new movies in theaters and via streaming platforms simultaneously. Disney’s emphasis on its streaming service, Disney Plus, paid off:  it exploded during quarantine and quickly accumulated 100 million subscribers. Additionally, Disney also followed a similar cinema distribution model to Warner Brothers by releasing new hits via streaming rather than just in theaters. 

The need for digital innovation was crucial for the M&E industry to adapt to the new circumstances created by the pandemic, and this need will continue long into the post-COVID world. M&E organizations faced a catalyst in their structural transformation, and the digitization of content workflows and distribution became absolutely imperative as employees went remote and content consumption hit an all-time high. Moreover, certain market trends were felt more acutely during the pandemic and represented a paradigmatic shift for the M&E industry. These trends include the rise of direct-to-consumer, content wars via mergers and acquisitions, and wavering audience loyalty. Change is ever-present, and the consequences of not adapting to the modern world became obvious and unavoidable in the face of the pandemic. Ultimately, M&E incumbents who are slow to modernize their technology, production, and monetization strategies will be left behind by more agile competitors

How M&E Companies Can Use the Cloud to Innovate

As we return “back to normal,” we’ll see how the pandemic affected our societal structures temporarily and permanently. The M&E industry was particularly changed in an irrevocable manner: a new age of media has been fully realized, and M&E businesses will have to rethink their business models as a result. How the pandemic will continue to evolve from here is still unknown, but it is clear that media organizations will have to continue to innovate in order to keep up with the changes in working patterns and audience behavior.

To adapt to the accelerated changes driven by COVID-19, the modern media supply chain will require agility, flexibility, and scalability. Cloud solutions (such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, and Google Cloud Platform) are the key enabler for M&E companies as they look to innovate. According to a Gartner report on digital transformation in media and entertainment, 80% of broadcasters and content creators migrated all or part of their operations to public cloud platforms as an urgent response to effects of quarantine in 2020. By switching to cloud-based infrastructures, M&E companies were able to collaborate and create remotely, better understand real-time audience behavior, and maintain a secure environment while supporting media production, storage, processing, and distribution requirements.

There is no one-size-fits-all cloud strategy, as it is dependent on the business. Some companies opt for a single cloud provider, while others choose a multi cloud strategy. A hybrid cloud solution is also an option, which utilizes data centers in conjunction with cloud service providers. Regardless of a company’s cloud strategy, the benefits of migrating to the cloud remain the same. Below we’ll dive into a couple of the pros of utilizing the cloud for morderning workflows, supply chains, and data analyses. 

Unifying Workflows

With a cloud platform, teams can now collaborate remotely and globally, which ultimately leads to greater productivity and efficiency in content creation. When it comes to media production, whether it is live or pre-filmed, massive teams of professionals are needed to make the vision come alive (editors, visual effects artists, production professionals, etc.) COVID-19 demonstrated that teams using cloud service providers could still work collaboratively and effectively in a remote environment. In fact, businesses realized that requiring teams to come on-site for content production can be more time consuming and costly than working remotely. Virtual post-production is a great example of how the cloud is more economical from a financial and time sense. Using a modern cloud infrastructure, M&E brands can create virtual workstations, which replaces physical workstations at the user’s desk. Unlike traditional workstations, virtual workstations do not have a capital expense. Virtual workstations are extremely customizable in terms of size and power to the exact specifications needed for a given task. Furthermore, the billing is flexible and you only pay for what resources you use. Lastly, with physical workstations, there are many “hidden costs.” Think about the electricity and staffing fees that businesses must pay in order to keep a workstation running. When you switch to a virtual workstation for post-production work, all of the aforementioned costs are managed by a cloud service provider.

Streamlining the Media Supply Chain

As media and entertainment shifts to direct-to-consumer, content management has become absolutely crucial in the media supply chain. Content libraries are only growing bigger and there is an influx of newly-produced assets as team workflows work more efficiently. Even so, most media companies store their library assets on-premise and within tape-based LTO cartridges. By doing so, these assets are neither indexable, searchable, or readily accessible. This slows down editing, versioning, compliance checking, and repackaging, all of which hurts an organization’s ability for rapid content monetization. By implementing a cloud-based infrastructure, M&E companies can utilize tools like machine learning capabilities to manage, activate, and monetize their assets throughout the content supply chain.

Capturing Real-time Data

Archaic and lagged metrics, such as overnight ratings and box office returns, will struggle today to produce actionable insights. Digital transformation for M&E organizations will require a technology and cultural transformation towards a data-driven mindset. To make data-driven decisions, you need to have the tools to collect, process, and analyze the data. Cloud platforms can help process big data by employing machine learning capabilities to deeply understand audiences, which can translate into monetization opportunities further down the funnel. By harnessing the cloud to redefine data strategy, businesses can make confident decisions using real-time data and use actionable insights to deliver real transformation. 

Conclusion 

Before the pandemic, 2020 was shaping up to be a pivotal year for the M&E industry as audience behavior was changing and new competitors were cropping up; however, the effects of the COVID-19 expedited these trends and forced organizations to transform immediately. In this new age of media, M&E companies must reckon with these unique and long-lasting challenges and seek to change their business models, cultures and technologies to keep up with the changing landscape. 

-Anthony Torabi, Media & Entertainment Strategic Account Executive

Cloud Crunch Podcast: 5 Strategies to Maximize Your Cloud’s Value – Create Competitive Advantage from your Data

AWS Data Expert, Saunak Chandra, joins today’s episode to break down the first of five strategies used to maximize your cloud’s value – creating competitive advantage from your data. We look at tactics including Amazon Redshift, RA3 node type, best practices for performance, data warehouses, and varying data structures. Listen now on Spotify, iTunes, iHeart Radio, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

We’d love to hear from you! Email us at CloudCrunch@2ndwatch.com with comments, questions and ideas.

Google Cloud, Open-Source and Enterprise Solutions

In 2020, a year where enterprises had to rethink their business models to stay alive, Google Cloud was able to grow 47% and capture market share. If you are not already looking at Google Cloud as part of your cloud strategy, you probably should.

Google has made conscious choices about not locking in customers with proprietary technology. Open-source technology has, for many years, been a core focus for Google, and many of Google Cloud’s solutions can integrate easily with other cloud providers.

Kubernetes (GKE), Knative (Cloud Functions), TensorFlow (Machine Learning), and Apache Beam (Data Pipelines) are some examples of cloud-agnostic tools that Google has open-sourced and which can be deployed to other clouds as well as on-premises, if you ever have a reason to do so.

Specifically, some of Google Cloud’s services and its go-to-market strategy set Google Cloud apart. Modern and scalable solutions like BigQuery, Looker, and Anthos fall into this category. They are best of class tools for each of their use cases, and if you are serious about your digital transformation efforts, you should evaluate their capabilities and understand what they can do for your business.

Three critical challenges we see from our enterprise clients here at 2nd Watch repeatedly include:

  1. How to get started with public cloud
  2. How to better leverage their data
  3. How to take advantage of multiple clouds

Let’s dive into each of these.

Foundation

Ask any architect if they would build a house without a foundation, and they would undisputedly tell you “No.” Unfortunately, many companies new to the cloud do precisely that. The most crucial step in preparing an enterprise to adopt a new cloud platform is to set up the foundation.

Future standards are dictated in the foundation, so building it incorrectly will cause unnecessary pain and suffering to your valuable engineering resources. The proper foundation, that includes your project structure aligned with your project lifecycle and environments, and a CI/CD pipeline to push infrastructure changes through code will enable your teams to become more agile while managing infrastructure in a modern way.

A foundation’s essential blocks include project structure, network segmentation, security, IAM, and logging. Google has a multi-cloud tool called Cloud Operations for logs management, reporting, and alerting, or you can ingest logs into existing tools or set up the brand of firewalls you’re most familiar and comfortable with from the Google Cloud Marketplace. Depending on your existing tools and industry regulations, compliance best practices might vary slightly, guiding you in one direction or another.

DataOps

Google has, since its inception, been an analytics powerhouse. The amount of data moving through Google’s global fiber network at any given time is incredible. Why does this matter to you? Google has now made some of its internal tools that manage large amounts of data available to you, enabling you to better leverage your data. BigQuery is one of these tools.

Being serverless, you can get started with BigQuery on a budget, and it can scale to petabytes of data without breaking a sweat. If you have managed data warehouses, you know that scaling them and keeping them performant is a task that is not easy. With BigQuery, it is.

Another valuable tool, Looker, makes visualizing your data easy. It enables departments to share a single source of truth, which breaks down data silos and enables collaboration between departments with dashboards and views for data science and business analysis.

Hybrid Cloud Solutions

Google Cloud offers several services for multi-cloud capabilities, but let’s focus on Anthos here. Anthos provides a way to run Kubernetes clusters on Google Cloud, AWS, Azure, on-premises, or even on the edge while maintaining a single pane of glass for deploying and managing your containerized applications.

With Anthos, you can deploy applications virtually anywhere and serve your users from the cloud datacenter nearest them, across all providers, or run apps at the edge – like at local franchise restaurants or oil drilling rigs – all with the familiar interfaces and APIs your development and operations teams know and love from Kubernetes.

Currently in preview, soon Google Cloud will release BigQuery Omni to the public. BigQuery Omni lets you extend the capabilities of BigQuery to the other major cloud providers. Behind the scenes, BigQuery Omni runs on top of Anthos and Google takes care of scaling and running the clusters, so you only have to worry about writing queries and analyzing data, regardless of where your data lives. For some enterprises that have already adopted BigQuery, this can mean a ton of cost savings in data transfer charges between clouds as your queries run where your data lives.

Google Cloud offers some unmatched open-source technology and solutions for enterprises you can leverage to gain competitive advantages. 2nd Watch has helped organizations overcome business challenges and meet objectives with similar technology, implementations, and strategies on all major cloud providers, and we would be happy to assist you in getting to the next level on Google Cloud.

2nd Watch is here to serve as your trusted cloud data and analytics advisor. When you’re ready to take the next step with your data, contact Us.

Learn more

Webinar: 6 Essential Tactics for your Data & Analytics Strategy

Webinar:  Building an ML foundation for Google BigQuery ML & Looker

-Aleksander Hansson, 2nd Watch Google Cloud Specialist

5 Questions You Need to Answer to Maximize Your Data Use

Businesses have been collecting data for decades, but we’re only just starting to understand how best to apply new technologies, like machine learning and AI, for analysis. Fortunately, the cloud offers tools to maximize data use. When starting any data project, the best place to begin is by exploring common data problems to gain valuable insights that will help create a strategy for accomplishing your overall business goal.

Why do businesses need data?

The number one reason enterprise organizations need data is for decision support. Business moves faster today than it ever has, and to keep up, leaders need more than a ‘gut feeling’ on which to base decisions. Data doesn’t make decisions for us, but rather augments and influences which path forward will yield the results we desire.

Another reason we all need data is to align strategic initiatives from the top down. When C-level leaders decide to pursue company wide change, managers need data-based goals and incentives that run parallel with the overall objectives. For change to be successful, there needs to be metrics in place to chart progress. Benchmarks, monthly or quarterly goals, department-specific stats, and so on are all used to facilitate achievement and identify intervention points.

We’ve never before had more data available to us than we do today. While making the now necessary decision to utilize your data for insights is the first step, finding data, cleaning it, understanding why you want it, and analyzing the value and application can be intensive. Ask yourself these five questions before diving into a data project to gain clarity and avoid productivity-killing data issues.

1. Is your data relevant?

  • What kind of value are you getting from your data?
  • How will you apply the data to influence your decision?

2. Can you see your data?

  • Are you aware of all the data you have access to?
  • What data do you need that you can’t see?

3. Can you trust your data?

  • Do you feel confident making decisions based on the data you have?
  • If you’re hesitant to use your data, why do you doubt its authenticity?

4. Do you know the recency of your data?

  • When was the data collected? How does that influence relevancy?
  • Are you getting the data you need, when you need it?

5. Where is your data siloed?

  • What SaaS applications do different departments use? (For example: Workday for HR, HubSpot for marketing, Salesforce for Sales, MailChimp, Trello, Atlassian, and so on.)
  • Do you know where all of your data is being collected and stored?

Cloud to the rescue! But only with accurate data

The cloud is the most conducive environment for data analysis because of its plethora of analysis tools available. More and more tools, like plug-and-play machine learning algorithms, are developed every day, and they are widely and easily available in the cloud.

But tools can’t do all the work for you. Tools cannot unearth the value of data. It’s up to you to know why you’re doing what you’re doing. What is the business objective you’re trying to get to? Why do you care about the data you’re seeking? What do you need to get out of it?

A clearly defined business objective is incredibly important to any cloud initiative involving data. Once that’s been identified, it’s important for that goal to serve as the guiding force behind the tools you use in the cloud. Because tools are really for developers and engineers, you want to pair them with someone engaging in the business value of the effort as well. Maybe it’s a business analyst or a project manager, but the team should include someone who is in touch with the business objective.

However, you can’t completely rely on cloud tools to solve data problems because you probably have dirty data, or data that isn’t correct or in the specified format. If your data isn’t accurate, all the tools in the world won’t help you accomplish your objectives. Dirty data interferes with analysis and creates a barrier to your data providing any value.

To cleanse your data, you need to validate the data coming in with quality checks. Typically, there are issues with dates and time stamps, spelling errors from form fields, and other human error in data entry. Formatting date-entry fields and using calendar pickers can help users uniformly complete date information. Drop down menus on form fields will reduce spelling errors and allow you to filter more easily. Small design changes like these can significantly help the cleanliness of your data and your ability to maximize the impact of cloud tools.

Are you ready for data-driven decision making? Access and act on trustworthy data with the Data and Analytics services provided by 2nd Watch to enable smart, fast, and effective decisions that support your business goals. Contact Us to learn more about how to maximize your data use.

-Robert Whelan, Data Engineering & Analytics Practice Manager