Operational efficiency and software-driven localisation in a post-COVID world

By Hamish Muiry, head of sales, M2A Media

Around six months ago I was talking about the shifting sands of broadcast distribution from satellite to cloud IP, and how sports rights owners were taking ownership of their distribution models for more granular and localised output.

Six months is a long time in cloud technology.

Fast forward to today and I’d like to share my latest observations, based not least on the results of M2A’s recent industry poll (more on that later). Notably the importance of the operational efficiency, as rights owners proliferate their distribution capability, strikes me as an important development, particularly as growing your business needn’t mean growing your overheads.

Cash flow is queen

As we begin to feel the full effects of COVID-19 on our annual revenues and look to reorganise for resiliency, we want to move as much of our outgoings into the operational rather than capex spend bucket. Cash flow is Queen! Not only that but reducing that operational spend wherever possible is a priority. “We have to reduce by 40%,” is a phrase I hear a lot.

The operations function in any business, never mind the sports broadcast sector, is critical.  In the live sports world however, when it’s gone it’s gone. You can’t miss a beat. That’s why skilled operators are so key in being able to manage incidents ahead of time.

Simply chopping 40% of operators off your books is not a strategy. There is a price to that over the medium to long term, and that feeling of instability will spread throughout the company. Stick with them, train them well, and take advantage of new technologies that enable them to do their job more effectively. Good operators are worth their salt, and you’re going to need them.

Building new horizons

Content rights owners going after new markets is nothing new. Gaining more value from current markets and entering new ones are the two ways companies bring in revenue. Until recently broadcast distribution has been based on CAPEX spend and long contract satellite models. Further, in more remote regions, local monopoly telcos will happily ask you for a blank cheque and time to market won’t be great either.

In a world where speed gives you the most competitive advantage, it no longer makes sense to follow the old model if there is a better alternative. Being able to leverage public cloud infrastructure for cost effective, PAYG distribution will be necessary for companies to not only survive, but thrive, in the post-COVID years.

Making money

So, you’re now up and running in the public cloud, distributing your live feeds via IP. What else can you do? Well, this is the cool part.

Legacy distribution infrastructure is a cost sink. It has historically been accepted that you need to pay X million per year to get your content to your rights holders. They pay a rights fee and what’s left over, minus other operating costs, is your profit.

Now we’re seeing that the cloud IP distribution mechanism can be a money maker in itself. The technology enables rights owners to create localised variants of their content cost effectively, and they now have the ability to create localised sponsorships with the brands that are most relevant to a particular region or demographic. Splitting out sponsorship rights, and localising content with that sponsor’s brand, is now possible, and will be more lucrative for the rights owner.

Now you’ve successfully turned your 10 feeds into 50 localised feeds with a variety of content insertion from local sponsors, your next question should be what about the extra operational overhead?

The good news is that your team, or your service provider’s team of operators, doesn’t need to grow five-fold as the outputs increase. The same software driven automation that runs content localisation makes it highly efficient for the operator. For example, the ability to easily configure feeds, manage subscriber entitlements to your content, enabling secure access for broadcasters to self-select which feeds they want and when, and is complete with monitoring and alerting features.

The days of the grand ‘Starship Enterprise’ operations centre are ending, and the lightweight cloud dev ops NOC is here. So you can grow your business without growing your operations overhead.

Carpe diem

Seize the day! To seize the market opportunity, you need to be first, best, or different for success. How about all three?

In a world with global public cloud infrastructure, moving your B2B content around through the public internet is becoming the stand-out option. It’s already happening.

In a recent survey of M2A Media’s industry peers over 50% of respondents said that they are ready to transition to IP transport in the cloud. A further 22% were already implementing the change.

When you factor in a PAYG commercial model, and short lead time to market, it’s understandable why many big content brands are using this form of distribution. If your organisation isn’t thinking about this already, perhaps it should be.

View the full results from M2A Media’s Live IP Video Transport Survey here.

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