The cloud—ubiquitous as it's become—still carries a note of apprehension in some corners of the broadcast industry. With the push toward a more decentralized approach brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, however, broadcast professionals have started to explore the usefulness of cloud-based workflows.
In a recent episode of Avid's Making the Media podcast, Qatar TV's broadcast technology leader, Mohamad Fares, shared his experiences adopting a cloud-based workflow as well as some thoughts about what might be stopping other broadcasters from doing the same.
Opportunities for Cloud-Based Workflows in Broadcast
As in most industries, broadcasters have had to deal with plenty of logistical questions during the pandemic. As the state broadcaster, Qatar TV has been expected to maintain a 24-hour schedule of multiple shows airing throughout the day on a variety of topics. To keep up with this challenge, the company has had to make some major workflow changes, including both transitioning to remote workflows and embracing the cloud.
Fares describes how changes in workflows allowed many members of their team to work entirely from home—a necessity to keep team members safe without disrupting programming. "They were able to work seamlessly without any major interruptions or major modifications to the way that they do business," he says.
This type of remote access workflow has become increasingly common in broadcast spaces since the start of the pandemic. However, it requires many adjustments in the overall workflow, including the adoption of cloud-based media delivery options.
Fares and his team began exploring cloud-based options that go beyond remotely managing the storage and transcoding of media to allow for a more flexible approach—enabling material to be released on whatever platform they would like. Comparing this against previous methods of handling this type of video on demand (VOD), Fares says, "We're quite excited about that, because it will really make the whole publishing to VOD process much more seamless."
Potential Challenges to Migration
If cloud-based services have the potential to be so useful, why have broadcasters historically hesitated to adopt this workflow? Of course, the answer varies; for Qatar TV, the cost of bandwidth marked a major obstacle to fully utilizing the cloud. Broadcasters frequently have to manage large amounts of information, and the cost of sending that all through the cloud could simply be unrealistic.
Additionally, any major change comes with an element of risk. "You want to stay ahead of the curve, but at the same time you don't want to be too early an adopter that you may take a misstep," Fares says. Careful planning and research are a must when considering utilizing a cloud-based workflow.
Information security is another common, more cloud-specific concern. Due to the nature of cloud-based services, broadcasters may worry whether their data can remain secure. For Fares, however, modern cloud security measures ease these fears.
Improving Information Security in the Cloud
Even before the pandemic, broadcast technology and information security teams faced communication issues simply because they have different goals and scopes of practice. By necessity, these teams have had the opportunity to work more closely together throughout the pandemic and come to a better understanding of what the other does. The lines of communication developed through this experience will no doubt shape the industry, regardless of what happens in the future.
After working with the information security team at Qatar TV to develop a cloud-based workflow, Fares now feels more confident in the security of the cloud. "It's exactly the same as an on-prem solution," he says. "Do your homework, make sure you lock it down properly, and make sure you have all the proper security protocols in place, and you should be safe."
Fares and the broadcast technology team at Qatar TV have created their own case study for the value and security of cloud-based workflows. As technology continues to develop, this approach will have evolving ramifications for how broadcast professionals stay safe, flexible, and creative under pressure.