Making the Media S3E01
Craig Wilson: Hi and welcome to the first episode of season three of the Making the Media Podcast. I’m your host Craig Wilson. Welcome back if you have heard us before, and if this is your first time listening, then it is great to have you join us for another season of in-depth discussions with the people who are making the media.
We are starting off this season actually very close to home here at Avid, with a discussion with Avid chief executive officer, Jeff Rosica.
Jeff has been CEO since February 2018, having joined the company five years earlier. He has more than 30 years of experience in broadcast, media, and entertainment technology, which includes a variety of senior leadership roles across the industry. He is also board chairman of the Boston Arts Academy Foundation.
With the industry undergoing constant transformation, there is a lot to discuss, so I began by asking Jeff to assess the scale of the challenge facing the broadcast and media industry as the media landscape continues to evolve.
Jeff Rosica: This is unprecedented, the amount of change going on between how business is changing and how that informs the operational requirements of companies and broadcasting media and the technology shifts going on. I mean I remember in my history maybe one or two shifts were going on. Remember, you know, we went to file-based and we went to, we went to digital first and then file based and then went to HD and so there was usually like a couple of technical shifts.
Today it's unprecedented what's going on. I mean people are again changing their business, changing their business models, how that informs their organization, and the transformations you have to go through and just the, the massive amount of technology shift, whether it's going to IP or going to 4K UHD workflows or dealing with Dolby Atmos® or dealing with, you know, streaming services… I mean it goes on and on and on with what's going on in the industry.
So I think what customers are coming to us with is pretty consistently, I think I would say, Craig, is that, as you travelled the world, I remember across my career there were different things going on around the world. People in different parts of the world had different priorities. When you look today, it is—I think you would say the same thing—it's pretty consistent from customers what they're looking for. They're trying to deal with this massive amount of transformation they have to do as a business. How they're going to leverage technology strategically when so many technology shifts going on and how they're going to really just create more content, more efficiently.
I mean almost everybody, you know, as they launch more direct-to-consumer models or streaming models, they are looking for ways to get more efficient, to create really high-quality content in a much faster, more economical way. They've got to do more. And I think that drives a lot of demand around things like working flexibly and working with people in a very distributed way, and you know obviously with COVID—I'm sure we'll talk about it—it really helped the industry I think kind of understand what was possible in this kind of distributed way of working. So yeah, but it's pretty consistent what I'm hearing, whether I'm in Japan recently—actually I wasn’t in Japan, some colleagues were, but I was in Germany, I've been in Finland, UK, and around the US, and so I've been starting to travel again pretty extensively after COVID, and it's a pretty consistent message we’re hearing.
CW: And do you think that the other thing that they're having to deal with is changing consumption models? Where, you know, there are so many more channels that are potentially available whether that is traditional linear television or whether it's online or it's video on demand. Is that also driving the kind of change that they're having to cope with.
JR: Yeah, I think it's to the point—exactly Craig—is that the direct-to-consumer models, or the ability you know, to get to your viewers in a more direct way has really opened up a lot of new ways for people to get content to the consumer. But conversely, it's created a lot of demand. The appetite for high quality content has never been as large as it is today as an industry. So what the pressure it puts on I think most broadcasters and media companies is they've got to produce more content, as I said before, but how are they going to do that in a more efficient way? They can't spend the same amount of money per minute as they're spending before creating that content, so you've got to do it in a much more efficient way.
But the demand is for higher quality, not just higher quality and resolution or audio, it's actually higher quality storytelling and higher quality in information gathering. And so, it's interesting to see that people have to figure out ways to do things, again, much more efficiently.
CW: Yeah, I think there was a sense a few years ago that, you know, YouTube was going to be full of cat videos. I think it still is full of cat videos, but it is that high-quality end of content that I think has surprised people and is driving so much within the industry.
And one area that that has also come up when I've spoken to some people, it's just about coping with that demand simply from a talent perspective about having enough people to create that kind of content, and also I’m wondering what customers are saying to you about the sheer amount and volume of content that they're having to produce.
JR: Yeah, I think most are struggling with that volume question. And I think, you know, one of the key points you make is around talent is what I do hear consistently is that they're having trouble finding talent—especially wherever they are locally. And, you know, they've had an issue with trying to find enough production people and editors and, you know, audio mixers and just, you know, generally people, you know, across the entire spectrum of positions across the production. And I think that they were facing that problem before, you know, COVID came, and I think with COVID, COVID was a disastrous situation for the world, but one thing it did teach our industry is you really have to figure out a way to work collaboratively in a distributed way because, you know, obviously COVID forced people to work remotely. But what it also did is I think it made people realize, you know, I can work with people somewhere out in another corner of the globe or another part of the region of the country I'm in. And I and I think what people have seen is that, you know, this kind of, you know, gig economy, which has been expanding over the years and the ability to really, you know, get to workers, whether they're freelance or whether they're employees, get to people wherever they are and get more talent to help them produce content—that has helped.
I would say, though, that that's still going to be a problem long term. Near term, I think it's good that, you know, people who want to be in this industry can get a job and work probably with almost anybody around the world because there's, you know, so much is possible remotely. But we are going to run out of talent. I really have to say, from my perspective, when I look at the forecast of how much content is going to continue to be produced, the increase in production is going to happen over the next, you know, three to five years. And you look at the amount of talent coming into our industry, no matter what the role is, we're really, I think, going to have a… I think the shortage we have in talent today is only going to get exponentially worse in the coming years.
So, I think from a technology company perspective, we have to help figure out ways to be able to leverage the talent much, again, much more efficiently. How do we get any member of the talent to be able to get more done? And so whatever we can do to make more efficient workflows, to automate processes, to do anything we can.
You know, a lot of people talk about AI, and they talk about how it could potentially remove jobs. I don't think that's the case at all. I think it really is how to get more mundane tasks off the plates of creative people or production people. And how do we do that in a way that can give people a lot more possibility to leverage their talent because there's going to be a tightening of talent in the future that I think it's one prediction I'll make that I feel pretty strongly about.
CW: Is it also the case that because of the distribution of talent, that another huge challenge people face is actually change management. It's actually about trying to organize themselves. So it's not just the technology, it is about how do you create teams; how do you create that sense of working together when people are apart. Is that something you feel people are wrestling with as well?
JR: Yeah I think so. I mean even this, even Avid as a company is in the middle of a big transformation to really become much more digitally savvy, cloud first, you know, mobile first kind of company. But there's so many changes we're having to face as a company as we get more modern and more digital and how, not just the products and services we produce or we offer, but also is how we operate as a company.
I think what we have to do is probably a fraction of what most broadcast media companies have to face. This changes I talked about before Craig, this monumental amount of change going on in our industry and what people are dealing with or our customers are dealing with requires massive transformation, as I said earlier. And that transformation, to be successful, takes change management, and it takes transformational management. And I think that's a big need for our industry.
As a technology supplier, we do our best to try to help our customers manage that transformation. But you know, I think it's going to require a much broader look at change management and transformational management again, as an industry. It’s critical to success. You can deploy a lot of technology, but as you said, Craig, if you can't look at the organizational aspects, the cultural aspects, and the operational aspects of it, you know, technology investments can fail if not deployed properly and deployed in a way that people can transform what they're doing.
CW: One other area where, you know, the industry is transforming, and I think just generally our lives is transforming is around the use of subscription. So for example, now, you know, I think most of us at home have got some kind of subscription service for whether it's Netflix or Disney+ or you know one of the others that's available to us. So it's part of our normal lives, but it's also something within the industry that's changing in terms of a subscription model, as opposed to additional CapEx and OpEx. Is that a change that you’ve seen accelerate again throughout the course of the last couple of years?
JR: Yeah, I think absolutely. You know, there are people—there's still a lot of debate around subscription models versus, you know, more traditional old fashioned kind of perpetual and hardware purchase upfront models. I think the reality is look, the industry is becoming much more of a subscription economy, as you said, you know as our lives as consumers. But also if you look at most IT organizations, a lot of what they deploy and have been deploying for years has been subscription based or pure SaaS-based, which is really on demand based. Our industry really it is just, I think, in the early days of making that transition, and I think it's a good thing for the industry.
Obviously it's good for everybody. It's a win-win for the for the suppliers of the industry, but it really is important for the customers, the consumers of these technologies. The reason I say that is that if you look forward to the business models people are dealing with, as you said earlier Craig, people are producing a lot more content. I think the old model where I went and dropped you know spent $1,000,000 or a couple million, you know, pounds or euros, you know, on an installation or sometimes more to start a new show or a new channel, people can't do that now today. They need to be able to try things, and if they don't work, move on to the next thing. They've got a lot more of a of a trial kind of mentality and also there's so much, as we talked about, to create more content, so much demand on that. But capital budgets can be strained and, you know, capital budgets often can't handle the kind of requirements that we see in the industry today.
What subscription does is a number of things. One is it people forget that it really reduces substantially the upfront cost of deploying technologies into an environment, and so it allows people to as I said earlier to startup channels and startup programs or shows and try a show, and if it doesn't work out, they can stop subscription or they can stop consuming on demand SaaS environments. But it really does help that.
Secondly, it really variableizes the cost base so that you can really kind of match the cash flow. I mean a lot of people debate OpEx versus CapEx, but I think that debate is kind of the wrong debate to be having, to be honest. Those are just ways in which you treat things on a P&L or a balance sheet of a company. In the end, cash is cash. It's all about cash. It's all about the cash that people spend. And if you can, you know, have that cash go out over time better match to the income that you're getting as a broadcaster media company, that's a benefit. And so that's important. And I think that, you know, and everyone talks about this, but I think nobody would debate is our industry often has to burst to do special events—Olympics—you know the Olympics well, Craig, you've worked a lot of them, whether it's, you know, elections or or special sporting events, you name it, your ability to subscribe and add capacity during those times is also a real benefit, that variability aspect.
So I really think it's overdue for our industry. I think it's a perfect type of business model and a way to deploy technology. And I think it's you know, just for us as a company it's taking off very, very rapidly, not just for individual creative consumers but also for enterprise customers. And I think the whole industry—put the debates aside—I think the whole industry will move to this over time. And I'll just say wrap it up on this point by saying if you're going to go to the cloud, you have to be subscription based. That's by default what it is. You know, it is either a software subscription you're deploying in your own tenancy in the cloud, or it is a SaaS, which is basically on demand subscription. So I think the reality is the industry has to go there especially if they want to embrace the cloud as they as I think the industry does.
CW: You kind of preempted my next question, Jeff, because that was exactly where we're going to head for is looking at the cloud. You know, I think a few years ago, I think people saw the cloud as maybe a panacea—it was going to solve everyone's problems and you know, we're going to transform everything there. And we've gone through periods where I think people have been a little bit suspicious about it, concerns about security. What does it mean for my workflows? Where do you think we are now in that kind of journey to the cloud? It's being embraced for some workflows, but not all, you know, where do you think we sit at the moment?
JR: Well, I think it's feels like in the last, you know, 2-3 years, the whole debate around security and trusting it, I think that's been resolved. I think people really do understand that these environments, while they're not perfect, they are way more capable from a from a scalability and from a security standpoint than any broadcast media company can do in their own back room or in their own, you know, plant infrastructure. I think it's now just the normal transition you would see where people are looking at economics and looking at workflows and looking at really how to best fit their business environments with the cloud. I think everybody realizes they're going to have to leverage the cloud in some way they do today. There’s probably not a company in the world that doesn't leverage cloud in some part of its infrastructure. So I think we're just in that transition mode and I think people are starting to realize the benefits of what cloud can bring people.
Look, it's just a technology. I mean it's, you know, everyone talks about it being a panacea. It's just a unique way to deploy technology that gives a lot more flexibility for people, but also gives the ability to scale differently, to go global in a much more efficient way, to enable, you know, remote workflows or distributed teams to collaborate… I mean there's so many things that does.
There is a cost element for sure and people are always checking the economic model of moving a given workload or workflow to the cloud. But it also is an enabling technology that enables things that again if we want to really as an industry go to much more of a distributed team, virtualized environment, cloud is a—whether that's a cloud in your in your back room, a private cloud, or whether that is a public cloud, cloud technologies are crucial to realize the strategic direction our industry needs to take as a as a whole.
CW: I think another question that it kind of prompts is that if you simply want to continue what you're doing today but do it in the cloud, you're probably not going to realize the benefits they can actually come from, I guess it goes back to that transformational question about you know what is it you really want to do to take advantage of it, and then getting a picture of what that TCO is, and really understanding the economics of it compared to what you're doing perhaps on prem?
JR: Yeah, I think look, people have to remember, and I say this all the time to customers and it's interesting how many haven't really thought this through completely. But I'll say here, it may be obvious to some customers who may be listening or industry people listening to this podcast, but when you when you outsource your infrastructure to a cloud provider, hyperscale provider like Microsoft Azure, AWS, or Google, or pick your provider, you are outsourcing everything. You're outsourcing not just the storage or the, you know, CPUs or infrastructure. You are outsourcing the racks, the power, the air conditioning, the building, the people, the security infrastructure. It's all being outsourced in that environment. If you're not going to be really moving those costs to that provider, if you're still going to keep the buildings you have and all the real estate footprint you have, if you're going to keep all the people and keep all of the infrastructure that you have, you're not going to save money. I mean it's going to be expensive in that comparison. But I think if you look at a real TCO where you where you are transforming as you said Craig and you're really moving that off into another provider. It does give a real good TCL economic benefit in the long run, and it really, I think, aligns to what most media companies really want to get to is: What is their core competency? Media companies and broadcasters, I would argue their job is content and everything else is just a must have. I mean you need the technical infrastructure to do this, right? You need people, you need a lot of things. But their job is to tell stories, whether that's entertaining people or informing people or educating people or just liking people. That's their job. And so I think they have to think about what their core competency is. Is it building technology infrastructure or is their core competency really just creating content and think about maybe some of the infrastructure should be, you know, put off into the cloud. Not saying every workflow or every workload makes sense in the cloud right now today—it will over time, but I think we're in that mode where people need to analyze their transformation plans and where do they see their three and five year plan for a company and build up build a plan to get there overtime because it will be, I think it will be commonplace five years from now.
CW: Yeah, I still think a lot of places are going to look at a hybrid model. You know, we've still got studio infrastructure, but we do some things in the cloud, and you know, that's part of the journey I guess to get there.
What I wanted to ask now really was about innovation within the industry. Because if you are going to transform, then you know innovation is kind of critically important as well. What do you think are the key areas where innovation can help that kind of transformation?
JR: Well, I think I think as an industry we have to be a little careful. Again, being on the technology side my whole career, seeing how much is going on in the industry, it can put a lot of demands not just on an Avid but on every supplier across our industry in a lot of innovation required across the board, and I think as an industry we probably have to—now it a really important time to be really well aligned with what do we need this year, what do we need next year, what do we need three years out. If we, if we go in too many directions at once as an industry, I think we'll slow ourselves down. I think, you know, having these, these discussions and constant dialogue, something we're doing very often with the ACA (or the Avid Community Association), we were just both in London at a recent event and having that dialogue with customers is so important because we've got to keep our innovation plans aligned to the real priorities because again, you can end up innovating in 50 different ways right now as an industry and it just slows you down or it gets you defocused. I think when we look at it as a company, I think what we look at is again back to the core message we talked about the beginning of the podcast, is people are looking to do more with less, or do more with the same amount, and so they've got to get more efficient. They've got to look for new ways to get jobs done, they've got to look for new ways for teams to collaborate, they've got to look for ways for people to work in more flexible ways. How do they get workflows more efficient? And so how we can innovate in how we can virtualize teams, how teams can work in distributed way, how we can handle the more complex workflows but in more efficient ways. I think how we leverage AI and ML techniques to meet all that. I think that's where the key innovation is needed as an industry.
And then I would say how people think about storage, or where am I going to put my metadata, or where am I going to store my content, whether it's raw or whether it's finished. I think that whole paradigm is shifting drastically, and I think people are going to be thinking about data with a big D and how do they capture all the data they need to drive their business and whether that's, you know, content, whether that's metadata, or that's other types of data, but how do you manage that in a distributed world? And it's going to get more complex in managing, you know, data, whether again from audio and video content to metadata. Mention that in today's environment is already difficult. I think if you look forward with distributed teams that only gets more complex. And so how we're going to do that in a simpler way when it's actually getting more complex and making it easier for the users? And how do I find the content I need or how do I find the data I need to make a decision—that's crucially important around innovation, our industry.
CW: Obviously when it comes to technology companies as we are, part of what we have to do to try to innovate, I guess, is to experiment, is to try new things. So there's two elements to that; One is how important is it that we experiment? And the other thing is how actually important is it that at times we fail and then learn from that?
JR: Yeah, you have to fail. If you're not failing, you're not innovating, or you're not innovating fast enough. I mean, you can innovate and not fail, but you have to worry that you're not either innovating enough or innovating fast enough to fail.
You want to fail, but you want to fail fast. You want to make a decision and move on. And that's important and so that's a change of culture that we're going through as a company and I think it's important for all companies—including our customer base, whether you're a broadcaster, media company, or a post house, you name it. You've got to try things and be willing to fail, and I think our industry in the past has not been really mindful of failure—it's almost failure was not an option. It's kind of the concept of our industry and I think that we all have to realize that we've got to try things and fail because that's how innovation happens. So it's pretty important. It's a good question, Craig, it's something I worry about that we won't fail enough, which means we're not innovating fast enough.
CW: One thing to pick up on your previous answer, Jeff, you spoke about big data, and big data is something that other industries have used for a long time. Look at medical, look at financial technologies, they've used them for a long time. So, is it also the case that the media industry has to look around and has to learn from other industries perhaps in ways that they wouldn't necessarily have thought I could actually benefit from something that's been done elsewhere.
JR: Yeah I think we do. But I think we also we're unique industry and I think that we're not just dealing with data about a certain thing, like your customer. I mean that's important, obviously, but there's so much data we have as an industry from how content was created, information about that content, information about everything that feeds that content—doesn't matter whether you’re news or sports or entertainment. Data is so important.
We as an industry have kind of managed things in really compartmentalized, siloed ways, not always very efficiently. That has to change, I think, because data is so important, especially in new business models to drive how people make decisions, how they inform their engagement with their consumer or their viewer. So I think it's going to be important we do that, and again, that only gets more complex in a distributed world where everything is not, let's say, at the headquarters in one big monolithic storage environment. Now it can be everywhere. It can be in users devices; it can be in a number of areas. And so how do you ensure that, you know, you can virtualize all that data and keep it connected so that you're not using much of human intervention to try to put data back together with content or to put different elements of data together. I think we are, as an industry, I mean there's some examples that are pretty impressive, best in class examples, but I think we are as an industry collectively in the early days of becoming more sophisticated. But yes, we've got to look at other industries that have gotten really good at using data in their business models.
CW: Something else that I guess the media industry still is early days at is actually looking at environmental considerations. You know, we've done a podcast episode here in the UK with the albert Organization which obviously looks at helping companies reduce their carbon footprint and work in those ways. It was something that came up in the voice of the customer event that we attended in London, Jeff is this something—it's not just about being good corporate citizens—but this is something that is kind of fundamental to the future, and I wonder how that plays into how we develop our own solutions and act as a business?
JR: Yeah, it's a good question. I think we've got to do more as a company. We, you know, in our journey as a company and since I took over as CEO, this is one of our priorities but we didn't make it the early priority because we had other things to focus on as a company, but what we call ESG or environmental, social, and governance issues, which are important to our customers, to our users, to our partners, and even to our investors, it's very important that we are focused on this. And so we've got a number of areas that we're looking at in this regard.
I think we talked about the impact to, let's say the sustainability as an industry. I think again, back to cloud—if we can help our industry work in distributed ways so that people don't have to commute to work every day or don't have to live in urban environments or don't have to consume the same, you know, carbon footprint to do their job… if we can use cloud to do that, which, you know, obviously you look at hyperscale providers, they're on a journey themselves, but they're making huge strides in how they're creating environments that have a very, very, significantly improved footprint—a carbon footprint is one example.
So I think that when we leverage these technologies as an industry, we are helping feed that. We are helping or improve that as an industry. So when we look at our development program of products, we're looking at that very closely. Where we do have to do build hardware, we're being very careful about, you know, how we build that hardware and how the hardware is going to impact, you know, our environment as a world. But again I think the more we can stop shipping things around and moving things all over the place and the less people have to travel… I mean I think, in general, there's so much as industry that are benefits we're going to be able to have and do our part, I think it's going to be important.
So it's an important part of our strategy. It's going to continue to be a more important part every day going forward. And the UK is a great example where I think the society, and your culture, and the industry has really been leading the way, and I think they are a good example for our whole industry to follow.
CW: So Jeff, we've covered lots of ground there in terms of, you know, lots of different aspects that have come up in the podcast from all various discussions that we have had. If you could look, you know, forward say six months or a year, what do you think are going to be the big changes between where we are today and where we get to in about a year's time?
JR: I don't think it's going to be… I wouldn't say any big changes are ahead, Craig. I would say that we're going to make a lot of movement towards this kind of future state that we as an industry, I think, see. And when I talk to most customers and users around the world, they all see kind of that future state of a very virtualized world for how they work and how teams are going to work very distributed around the world, and kind of how their workflows are looking at creating content in a digital first kind of environment.
I think what we're going to see over the next six to twelve months is just progress. I think pretty solid progress. If you and I talk a year from now, though, we talk all the time, but I think we talked on this podcast a year from now, hopefully what I'm going to tell you is that we made great strides as a company delivering on some of the solutions that we intend to deliver to help these, these very issues I talked about. But also I think we're going to see our customers have made a lot of progress towards their transformation plans and I think we'll have a lot more examples in the industry of successful transformation a year or six months from now.
CW: So Jeff, I know you listened to the podcast because you know, you talked to me about it. And so, you know, there is one final question that I do ask everyone on the podcast. So what is it, if anything, that keeps you up at night?
JR: Ah! Yeah, I've heard it a lot, but you know, it's funny, I've heard this podcast, but didn't even think about the fact that you're going to ask me that question.
I think that probably what keeps me up at night is just worrying about how we as a company are going to meet the needs of the industry to innovate—and innovate fast. I mean, that's really… it's thinking about, you know, where do we take the company; where is the most important place that Avid can help the industry and, you know, solve the problems they're facing. And I'm always thinking about, you know, are we doing the right thing? Are we prioritizing things in the right way? I think that's the most important thing that I think about that keeps me up at night.
And I think again, there’s just so much we have to do—not just we at Avid—we as technology suppliers, as an industry, have so much to do to help our customers and users meet the needs and demands of today. Hopefully all my counterparts are thinking about that when they fall asleep at night.
CW: Thanks to Jeff for joining us on the podcast. Now, don’t forget, there is always a full transcript of the podcast available on our episode page online on the Avid website.
And if you want to find out more about some of the things which we discussed with Jeff then why not check out the show notes. There you can discover links to a recent webinar which demonstrated how distributed teams can work together, and also an article with the CTO of American broadcaster Sinclair, discussing their use of the cloud.
Don’t forget you can check out all our previous episodes from seasons one and two on your podcast platform of choice—we’re available in lots of places—and subscribe to get notified when new episodes are out.
You can always contact us with feedback! On email we are Makingthemedia@avid.com, and on social I am @CraigAW1969 on both Twitter and Instagram.
Thanks to our producer, Matt Diggs; thanks to you for listening; and stay subscribed for more episodes, coming soon, with those Making the Media.Dolby Atmos is a registered trademark of Dolby Laboratories.