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Building the cloud-native broadcast media supply chain with Google Cloud

The media supply chain is undergoing a major transformation in the digital age, and Google Cloud is leading the charge by partnering with key media companies and ISVs to build cloud-native solutions. This shift will enable broadcasters to streamline operations, reduce costs, and deliver more engaging content to global audiences. With a focus on openness, efficiency, and AI integration, Google Cloud is helping media companies unlock the full potential of the cloud for their future success.

The media supply chain brings viewers their favorite movies, TV shows and live sports. From the moment a content creator conceives of an idea, the entire media supply chain kicks in to create, manage, and deliver digital media to its destination, whether that’s a streaming service, Set-top box, movie theater, or a music player. The media supply chain is complex and ever-evolving, and is essential for the success of the modern media enterprise. And with the rise of streaming services, social media, and direct-to-consumer business models, the focus of the media supply chain is on audiences and the end user, so consumers have more control over what content they watch and listen to. 

There are four key stages in the media supply chain:

Creation: The initial creation of the media, such as filming a movie or live sports event; this is where the “magic” is created.

Media processing and quality checks: Automatic and manual quality checks help ensure content is up to the organization’s standards, and then transformed into a digital format that can be easily distributed. A processing engine, meanwhile, converts camera and audio feeds into digital formats for easy updates. 

Editing: Content is fine-tuned, with edits ranging from color grading for a blockbuster movie to on-the-spot replay shots for a live sports game. Steps often include color correction, and fixing audio quality. 

Delivery and distribution: The content is prepared for delivery involving transcoding, packaging and in many cases embedding closed captions. Once ready the content is delivered to viewers via satellite to terrestrial, and increasingly, digital.

The goal of media CTOs has always been to have a well-defined process to ensure that media is created, managed, and delivered efficiently and effectively. However, building and managing a media supply chain can be complex, and involve many different people and organizations. In fact, media supply chains are often patched together as media companies expand and acquire new companies. 

There are still other challenges with media supply chains, like moving them to the cloud. For example, in the past, broadcasters didn’t have to think about the cost of transferring content (i.e. egress), but with cloud, the cost can be significant. Other challenges include:

Increased complexity of monitoring across on-prem and cloud

Time-alignment of systems in the cloud and on-prem 

System availability in the cloud and cut over between on-prem and cloud

Format standardization for content and metadata between cloud and on-prem and transmuxing and transcoding when transitioning from one to the other

When media companies initially transitioned to the cloud, the focus was often on quick wins and immediate cost savings. While this approach offered short-term benefits, it didn’t fully address the need for a comprehensive overhaul of the media delivery process. This led to missed opportunities for long-term optimization and innovation within the cloud environment. Moving forward, a more holistic approach that considers the entire media workflow can unlock greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness for years to come.

At the same time, television is changing. At Google Cloud, we strongly believe that the future of television will revolve around producing live, local, and personalized experiences that cater to global audiences. There is an opportunity for broadcasters to engage audiences longer and more deeply in immersive content formats that respond to their interests, both implicitly and explicitly. But to meet these requirements would mean more streamlined production processes, facilities, with AI-driven automation to produce more content and viewing choices than ever before. A cloud-centric media supply chain will be the driver of these innovations.

Toward a cloud-native media supply chain

At Google Cloud, we believe that moving the media supply chain to the cloud isn’t just about moving on-premises workloads to the cloud; it’s about running applications in a cloud-native fashion, to create high-quality, reliable software systems that can be delivered quickly and efficiently, while also enabling agility, observability, and automation. Utilizing DevOps and SRE methodology in the development process is essential to this process.

A key component of the media supply chain is that media software providers — ISVs — complete the supply chain for broadcasters, and need to work in a cloud-native way to enable cloud transformation. These media ISVs provide specialist applications, and in many cases architectures, and unfortunately, some of these ISVs are not cloud-native today.

Google Cloud for Media & Entertainment’s mission is to “Empower media organizations to transform audience experiences through innovation.” We believe that the cloud can be truly transformative in shaping the future of the audience experience. Google Cloud has several areas of focus to allow customers to leverage the cloud for their media supply chain:

Empower the existing ecosystem. We recognize the challenge for broadcasters to retrain operations staff on new broadcast applications. We will continue working with leading ISVs to enable their applications on Google Cloud so that they can take advantage of our capabilities and services to provide powerful, cloud-based products.

Focus on openness. The broadcast space has a wide diversity of content delivery standards to choose from. Google Cloud is committed to enabling customers to deliver content to the cloud using the standards of their choice. 

Invest in application efficiency. Google Cloud is focused on making existing ISV applications more efficient on Google Cloud, highlighting the flexibility and efficiency of underlying infrastructure.

To help, we’ve established a Google Cloud Media Supply Chain council that works in partnership with leading strategic media customers to define the future state of cloud-enabled media supply chains. Our goal is to help advance media software and hardware vendors’ roadmaps to meet modern media companies requirements. Current Google Cloud Media Supply Chain Council members include Grupo Globo and TelevisaUnivision. The council also works closely with key ISVs that will define the future of the media supply chain and assist them in clarifying cloud requirements and providing engineering support.

Building the future of media supply chains: A three-step guide

To build a cloud-based media supply chain for the future, there are three key steps.

1. Envisioning the blueprint for transformation

Google Cloud, along with key media companies, has been working on the future of a media supply chain that combines the flexibility of cloud infrastructure and the advanced capabilities of data platforms and AI/ML, including generative AI. A version of the future of the media supply chain is shown below.

As the blueprint depicts, the media supply chain of the future will allow media companies to identify key elements of their supply chain first and then select key ISVs to innovate on their platform. We believe there are certain components of the media supply chain that broadcasters should directly manage, such as metadata format and schema, choice of ISV vendors and specific customizations.

In the media supply chain ecosystem, we work with customers to build the green blocks in the graphic above, including providing AI/ML services at scale to enable media search and discovery. In parallel, we are working toward an ecosystem where our ISV partners (in the blue blocks) provide microservices that enable different functions of the media supply chain on-demand, so it can scale horizontally and function reliably. We are at the start of the journey, but we are rapidly making progress in terms of changing how our ISV partners think about the cloud.

At Google Cloud, we are committed to providing secure, highly scalable, available, and reliable infrastructure; high-performance storage, network, and compute; along with reasonable cost and value-added AI/ML APIs. All of this in a secure environment that safeguards against unauthorized access and IP theft, where data and data analytics provide real-time insights into content, content metadata, alerts, and monitoring systems in a single pane of glass. 

2. Selecting cloud-ready partners

When selecting ISV partners, media companies should consider both functional requirements, cloud maturity, and AI readiness.

Infrastructure and licensing. One of the cloud’s core value propositions is the ability to turn services on and off on demand. Media companies should give preference to ISV applications that are composed of microservices running on Kubernetes clusters or serverless functions, rather than monolithic code running on virtual machines. In addition to the technical infrastructure, the business license and Terms of Service itself also need to be scalable. ISVs that offer hourly or even by-the-minute licensing should be preferred over static and fixed licensing. Dynamic licensing allows customers to scale services without having to worry about obtaining new licenses, license keys, or contacting support teams from the ISV.

Scalability. The ability of the ISV to scale, especially horizontally, is of great importance. This is relevant as vertical scaling has limits. Virtual machines can only grow so big before they run into performance bottlenecks. It is also important to note that horizontal scalability enables scaling of not just CPUs, but also the network (using multiple NICs across nodes), memory, and storage.

Deployment and monitoring. The ISV’s application must be easy to deploy in the cloud, either via the Google Cloud Marketplace or using DevOps scripts that are easy to run and operate. ISV applications should also be able to be monitored and provide easy methods to integrate with cloud-native monitoring dashboards. This enables operational teams to have single-pane-of-glass visibility across cloud infrastructure, ISV applications, content, and subscribers.

Security. While it is imperative that ISVs focus on operational ease of use, they must not lose sight of security. ISV applications must adhere to best practices in terms of cloud security and undergo a rigorous test for vulnerabilities. A key deliverable for customers from ISVs should include architectural patterns and options that are rooted in best-in-class security paradigms.

Business model and stability. The size of the ISV, the stability of their business models and revenue streams, and a clear vision for incorporating AI technologies into their products are critical selection factors. As most broadcasters work with ISVs for many years, understanding their future vision and business model is important to ascertain the level of technical investment ISVs can make into their products.

3. Supporting cloud-native application development

Building a long-term roadmap with key technology partners is crucial for migrating media supply chains to the cloud, helping to ensure that all stakeholders are aligned on the goals and objectives of the migration, and that the right solutions are chosen to meet those goals. When evaluating an ISV as part of your cloud-native media supply chain, look for solutions with the following characteristics: workload consolidation, high availability, integration of disparate systems, AI/ML integration, and adoption of DevOps best practices.

Avoid fragmented workloads. Cloud computing gives customers the ability to onboard new workloads and services on demand. However, it is important to avoid having a fragmented workload spread across on-premises and cloud environments. But make a decision if a specific workload is best suited to run on-premises or on cloud. Fragmented workloads can lead to increased costs and complexity, as well as performance and security issues. 

Ensure reliability and high availability. Broadcast workloads demand high reliability and availability. Broadcast workloads expect 99.999% (5 9’s) reliability which still translates to 4 minutes and 19 seconds of downtime a month. A 99.99% (4 9’s) reliability translates to 43 minutes and 12 seconds of downtime a month. ISVs need to architect for availability in cloud environments. 

Integrate atomic workloads. Another aspect of cloud migration is integrating self-contained workloads that span across multiple partners, VPCs, and sometimes between on-premises and the cloud. A key challenge in integration is the lack of standardization of transport signals, especially for video. There is also the added complexity of ensuring video and audio are in sync and timed accurately.

Enabling AI/ML integration. Cloud-based generative AI and services are increasingly proving to be a valuable asset in simplifying the media supply chain and improving the quality of audience experience. We already see opportunity with ISVs using AI to manage content flows and enrich content using subtitles, dubbing and other content or metadata enrichment services.

Encouraging DevOps and monitoring best practices. ISVs need to adopt DevOps and monitoring best practices. This helps to ensure that applications are deployed and developed reliably, and that they can be seamlessly upgraded, monitored, and controlled securely.

Google Cloud works closely with key media partners to move atomic self-contained workloads to the cloud and to develop architecture patterns that support high availability, common standards and monitoring best practices.

Beyond lift and shift: TelevisaUnivision’s cloud-native media transformation 

TelevisaUnivision is migrating its media workloads to the cloud to take advantage of the latest technologies and to avoid infrastructure obsolescence. The company is working with Google Cloud to make the migration a success. Migrating to the cloud is not a quick or easy process, but it is proving to be a worthwhile investment for TelevisaUnivision. 

“Google’s Content indexing will revolutionize the way we create and consume media. In the future, we will be able to find and use any piece of content ever created, regardless of where it is stored or who owns it. This will open up a world of possibilities for creators and consumers alike,” said Marcos Obadia, SVP Global Engineering and Media Technology at TelevisaUnivision.

Likewise, moving the media supply chain to the cloud offers broadcasters several strategic advantages, said Ralf Jacob, EVP Broadcast Operations and Technology, TelevisaUnivision. “It enhances efficiency through automation, enables scalability for growing content needs, facilitates global distribution and localization, leads to cost savings, provides consolidated data insights and offers robust disaster recovery options” Ultimately, he added, “cloud-based media supply chains empower TelevisaUnivision to thrive in the evolving media landscape by optimizing operations and enhancing their ability to reach and engage a wider audience. For all of this to come together, you need the right partners.”

The key learnings from TelevisaUnivision on the migration are:

Don’t plan for a lift and shift. Instead, think about how the cloud can transform the media supply chain.

Be patient and be open to new ideas. The cloud is constantly evolving, so companies need to be willing to adapt.

Partner with ISVs to make sure they understand requirements and the tools and hyperscalers that they can take advantage of.

Transforming media with cloud and AI

“The media and entertainment industry is experiencing a pivotal transformation as companies improve the way they run operations, produce content and deliver superior customer experiences,” said Anil Jain, Global Managing Director, Strategic Consumer Industries, Google Cloud. “Generative AI is one of the biggest driving forces for this transformation and in order to realize its full potential media companies, hyperscale cloud providers and specialized media vendors need to closely collaborate.”

Cloud-based media supply chains can help media companies reduce costs, increase agility, and improve quality. By moving media supply chains to the cloud, media companies can eliminate the need to invest in and maintain on-premises infrastructure, which can lead to significant cost savings. Additionally, cloud-based media supply chains are more scalable and flexible than on-premises solutions, allowing media companies to quickly adapt to changes in the market, such as new content formats or distribution channels. Finally, cloud-based media supply chains offer access to powerful tools and services that can help media companies improve the quality of their content.

Google Cloud is proud to partner with media companies, helping them to make the move to the cloud and provide industry-specific tools that address customer’s most pressing challenges.

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