Taking off with Cloud in 2022: Thriving in an evolving mediascape
By Tim Banks, VP Sales EMEA, Grass Valley
The live content market has adapted to tackle new challenges head-on over the past couple of years. And while the pandemic continues to cause disruption, innovation is ever-present, enabling media companies to break new boundaries and thrive in a complex landscape. This year we’ll see evolving consumer habits continuing to reshape the way media companies create content across Europe and globally.
In 2022, two key trends will continue to remain front of mind for our market: skyrocketing demand for a wider array of content across more platforms than before, and the use of innovative cloud technologies to help media companies adapt to this shifting consumer landscape. The growth in cloud adoption will be driven increasingly by the age-old question of ‘how to do more with less?’ as media companies seek greater efficiency, flexibility, scalability and resiliency – all with the aim of enhancing their yield per asset.
Diversifying live content through multi-platform distribution
Following another tumultuous year when the pressure to stay at home fuelled demand for fresh video content, European audiences remain hungry for always-on live sports, news and entertainment — and they are turning to multiple sources to get it. Streaming services have been the big winner so far and are positioned to keep gaining subscribers even after a greater sense of ‘normality’ has returned.
However, streaming’s rise is not all about cord-cutting, with many consumers adding additional subscriptions to existing pay-TV packages. Ampere Analysis research showed that 80% of pay-TV households in Spain, Italy, France, the UK and Germany now also subscribe to at least one streaming service, with the total paying for multiple subscriptions increasing in each market in 2021 compared to 2020.
Consumers’ seemingly insatiable appetite for more content across more platforms will continue to impact live production in 2022. The shortage of new live premium content during the pandemic due to cancelled and delayed events has highlighted the potential value of programming previously considered niche.
The rising demand for a broader live content choice has caused an increase across the board in ‘alternative’ programming, such as lower league, regional and specialised sports, as well as more live shoulder programming such as pre-game shows. With slimmer budgets, this niche and complementary content must be produced as cost-effectively as possible and delivered to the broadest possible audience through global and largely IP-based multiplatform distribution. Despite the pandemic, European media companies have bolstered their live content portfolios, with Canal+ Sport and Matchroom just two of several launches in Europe that have expanded sports content through a multiplatform approach.
Accelerating toward remote production and cloud-based workflows
Consumer demand for more varied content has neatly intersected with media companies’ ability to shift towards more remote and cloud-based production – an approach that has been tried and tested throughout the pandemic. The wider uptake of remote and cloud-based approaches has been driven out of necessity as restrictions around social distancing forced content producers to look at ways to deliver live content while reducing onsite staff and travel. Social distancing measures also impacted media centres, where skeleton crews for news networks were bolstered by talent and technical staff contributing remotely. Looking back to 2020, we saw how the creation and deployment of new ways of working enabled the safe and successful resumption of the 2019/2020 Premier League season with Project Restart. Grass Valley’s close collaboration and workflow innovation with the likes of Sky, BT Sport, NEP, EMG, Timeline and Gravity Media was central to bringing live sports back on air amidst ongoing disruption.
Even last year, coverage of flagship events such as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and UEFA Euro 2020 were adapted to a largely remote footing. Using high-tech studios and remote production capabilities, many rightsholders were able to bring the immediacy of up-close live sports action to these events despite restrictions and precautions. For example, while BBC’s Olympics hosts were presented against a Tokyo backdrop, they were in fact appearing on set in the pioneering dock10 television facility in the UK. Increasingly, a seamless integration of onsite and remote elements will be seen less as an exception and more as another viable option with its own pros and cons.
The uptake of cloud has accelerated across many application areas, with audio, video switching, clipping, editing and highlight reels now easily managed in the cloud. Esports organisations such as Electronic Arts (EA) have harnessed the potential of cloud technology to enable truly global remote productions — last year, distributed production teams using a cloud-based workflow supported high-profile esports events for EA SPORTS FIFA 21 and Apex Legends. Utilising Grass Valley’s cloud-based Agile Media Processing Platform (AMPP), EA’s production staff seamlessly delivered live competitive esports competitions from locations in Europe and North America to a global fanbase. The efficiency and innate flexibility of this type of innovative, cloud-based approach mean that in 2022, we’ll see even more esports companies and premium live content providers realising the transformational potential of cloud for live production.
Driving momentum in 2022
I think we can all agree that necessity truly has been the mother of invention over the past two years. Remote, cloud and distributed production methods and technologies have been proven to help media companies create high-quality live content. In 2022 and beyond, there seems to be little reason the media and entertainment market won’t continue to embrace the innovative techniques developed to work within a pandemic environment, even as conditions get better – the benefits are too hard to ignore.
Clearly, the demand for live content across sports, news and entertainment will continue to grow – and cloud-based production and delivery has a big role to play in supporting that growth. The status quo of sports viewing is evolving as streaming pioneers such as DAZN and Amazon Prime compete with leading media companies for top sports rights, with all players exploring new ways to engage with audiences and increase global viewership.
Over the next few years, the European live content market will likely be characterised by a lot more competition, partnerships, challenges and surprises – but the lessons learnt over the last two years will help the media landscape adapt and thrive. Companies are looking to get ahead of the curve and design futureproof technology roadmaps that align with the evolving mediascape — the scalability, flexibility, resiliency and cost-effectiveness of cloud-based technologies will represent a hugely appealing proposition, both today and in the long-run.
2020 and 2021 certainly accelerated both the awareness and acceptance of cloud for live production. Building upon this momentum, this year we’ll see a rapid rise in the adoption of cloud-based workflows — and greater advocacy for cloud as media leaders begin to showcase their cloud-driven innovations for premium live content production on the biggest stages.