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Published on 8 Dec 2020

Lou DiMauro

Pioneering cloud playout and understanding the real-world customer opportunities

A blog by Lou DiMauro

A couple of months ago, I joined Globecast. As some of you will know, this, to use a time-honored phrase, is a long way from being my first rodeo as I have an extensive history in the industry. In this blog I’m going to take a look at what I see as the key industry challenges and opportunities and how a modern services provider like Globecast fits into the picture.

I will spare you all the details of my professional past, but some context is important. I have had several roles in the media services world and, prior to that, working directly with broadcasters like ESPN and Westinghouse Broadcasting. My particular area of expertise is the sale of network origination services. This includes media management, playback, compression, uplink and satellite space segment services. There are many variations of these services based upon the size and complexity of the customer.

Over the years, the industry has moved from analog tape-based services, to on-premise, server-based services to on- or off-premise, cloud-based services and software-based playout and graphics solutions. The key tenets of a playout service are largely the same, but the technology and workflows have changed and Globecast is very much a pioneer of this.

What’s your new role?

At Globecast we are very much leading the move to cloud-based origination and media management services for broadcast, cable and direct to consumer (DTC) programming, and this is what I am concentrating on. But this is not an overnight transition and there are complexities that take a high level of technical understanding – as well as key partnerships – to address. It’s not only understanding the move from on-premise to the cloud from a technical perspective but also from a business case angle. As a global business, we are seeing playout move to the cloud with variations in timescales and also in terms of cloud use i.e. partial cloud use or fully cloud. For example, we launched Virgin’s Media’s Virgin TV Ultra HD – the UK’s first dedicated UHD entertainment channel – back in 2018 in the cloud. Recently, AMC Networks International – UK, partnered with us to provide comprehensive playout and distribution services for its EMEA roster of 21 channels. In this instance, playout is handled using a combination of software-based technology, the cloud and playout servers, located at Globecast.

In the US, we have been working with a major broadcaster to provide a complete and highly sophisticated cloud playout solution and there will be more news of this soon. Suffice to say at this point that we are taking a firm, market-leading position in terms of this scenario. Our capabilities with these services expand into VOD, OTT and short term “pop up” channels. In short, the new technology allows more flexibility and increased service options, but it’s not a click-your-fingers scenario and requires considerable service provider skills to maximize the benefits for customers.

As a company, we are also continuing the development of our use of Infrastructure-as-Code and this holds many, many possibilities.

Where does Globecast fit into this part of the ecosystem?

A major opportunity I see for Globecast in the Americas is a larger role in the network origination business. As explained, we are a pioneer of cloud-based network origination services and certainly one of the first providers to enter this market. Additionally, Globecast has developed its own proprietary MAM called Orchestrator, which can handle all the essential MAM tasks. This is both financially and technically advantageous for both us and our customers. There will be competition, particularly for the smaller and less sophisticated playout channels, however the mid and large-scale clients will continue to require the management skills of a provider such as Globecast to facilitate media asset management, file-based workflows and larger feature sets to a larger and more diverse affiliate base. We also have an opportunity to manage IP delivery versus satellite for smaller programmers in the cable market, something that we are active in and have been for some time.

What about the move to IP more generally?

We are all extremely aware of the overall industry move to IP, but, as with the move to the cloud, there are complexities and this also isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario. While this challenges the satellite distribution model, it also enhances our ability to provide these IP distribution solutions, particularly to small and mid-level programmers. The satellite bandwidth that will be used by 5G services will force numerous programmers to rethink their distribution strategies based upon their affiliate numbers and costs. Operationally, the question is what it will take to support 100 IP connections versus one satellite signal and how the financial aspects are optimized. But there are clear opportunities here.

What does the future hold?

The television business is constantly changing and keeping pace with this change is imperative to keeping the products and services of the business relevant. I think we will find ourselves performing more streaming encoding solutions, providing CDN services and partnering with OVPs in the near future, as well as developing additional services for the direct-to-consumer market. What’s important is that we listen to our clients, their requirements and develop solutions that continue to enable growth.