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Pandemic accelerated Cloud adoption among broadcasters: Amagi CEO

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The Indian media and entertainment (M&E) industry has shown remarkable resilience during the pandemic. According to a PWC report, it is expected to reach 4.1 lakh crore by 2025 with a CAGR growth of 10.75 per cent, making it the fastest-growing entertainment and media market globally in terms of consumer and advertising revenue.

IANS spoke to Baskar Subramanian, Co-founder and CEO, Amagi, a next-generation media technology company, to get his insights into how cloud-led technology solutions have challenged the status quo in the industry creating radical changes in content consumption and monetisation patterns globally.

Here are the excerpts from the interview:

Q: Content is king in the media and entertainment industry. But what has become equally important in recent years is the technology to deliver content and enhance the viewer experience. Tell us about how Amagi adds value to content creators?

Amagi’s solutions are tailored to the needs of every type of broadcaster/content provider – from traditional TV networks to new age (digital-first) content owners.

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Using its Cloud-born products and services, Amagi enables content brands to build different types of channels, be it live, linear or on-demand. Furthermore, it distributes content in diverse formats to multiple end-points such as cable, satellite, OTT and Free Ad-Supported Streaming TV (FAST) platforms, using its award-winning channel playout solution, Amagi CLOUDPORT.

Amagi’s FAST network is currently unmatched in the world, with 50+ FAST platform partnerships and 100 other OTT platform partnerships globally.

Amagi’s cloud solutions also allow content creators to significantly enhance the quality of their content by adding multi-layered dynamic graphics and rich video effects. For instance, Amagi supports live sports, news and weather channels with HTML graphics to render real time scores and data.

To ensure that content brands are able to monetize their content without disrupting their audiences’ viewing experience, we have devised mechanisms for dynamic brand insertions and contextual ad placements into the content, wherein, in-stream ad messages, relevant to the video content, are placed right within the video stream.

However, delivering an outstanding viewing experience goes beyond enhancing the video quality and offering new, innovative ways of monetizing content. Content brands also need to understand the pulse of their audience, and tailor content and ad strategies to their preferences.

The Amagi ANALYTICS platform is a powerful tool that equips content providers and platforms with a comprehensive overview of consumer viewing habits, empowering them with the data they need to build successful programming and ad strategies.

Q: Did the Covid pandemic act as a catalyst for traditional media broadcasters to rapidly adopt cloud-based software solutions for creation and distribution of their content?

The pandemic definitely accelerated cloud adoption among broadcasters. The inaccessibility to their on-premise systems, combined with the restrictions on human movement, forced many broadcasters to look at alternatives. Cloud was a natural choice. Having moved their operations to the cloud, they realized its many other inherent advantages.

Some broadcasters had shown early technology leadership by adopting cloud-based broadcast workflows before the onset of the pandemic, and hence ended up reaping the benefits during the lockdown.

Amagi’s work with A+E Networks UK, a leading media network, is a typical example. In Q4 2019, A+E Networks UK initiated a cloud playout transition for the operations of its entire portfolio of 26 channels in Europe.

The transition to cloud enabled A+E Networks UK to access their broadcast operations from any remote location through a simple web UI, and control and manage all aspects of the workflow. This was a boon for them during the Covid-19 isolation measures. All their channel operations continued with no extra risk, while safeguarding the health and safety of personnel allowing them to manage operations from remote locations.

Q: How are you helping your customers in content monetisation in terms of their AVOD (advertising-based video on demand) strategy?
Free Ad Supported Streaming TV (FAST), a subset of Advertising Video-On-Demand (AVOD) offers viewers the simplicity of linear TV-like experience, with ad breaks that are shorter and tailored to their interest, without having to incur any Pay TV expenses. The FAST phenomenon has seen worldwide adoption as more and more viewers prefer the ease and affordability of linear TV over subscription-based streaming.

Using our channel playout solution, Amagi CLOUDPORT, we help content owners build linear channels complete with advanced graphics, programming and ad schedules. 300+ content brands have chosen to engage Amagi’s services to amplify their distribution across FAST. This includes USA TODAY, Fremantle, beIN Sports, Yahoo! Finance, Tastemade, Qwest TV, Shout! Factory, Cinedigm, VICE UK and more.

Amagi also offers an unmatched distribution network – 50+ FAST platform and other 100 OTT platform partnerships – to content brands, helping them reach over 200 million homes around the world. Our FAST platform partners include The Roku Channel, Samsung TV Plus, VIZIO, Plex, Rakuten TV, Peacock, Pluto TV, IMDb TV, Samsung TV Plus, XUMO, STIRR, and more.

Furthermore, Amagi’s virtual ad sales service, Amagi ADS PLUS, helps content owners sell their unsold ad inventory on linear streaming channels by creating attractive bundles of unsold inventories, thereby increasing their ad revenues on FAST. Amagi’s long-standing content partner, Cinedigm, was able to increase its ad revenues by 47% by employing Amagi’s ad tech solutions.

Q: Which are the large broadcasters which are now using Amagi in the US and EMEA markets? What is Amagi’s USP for such broadcasters?

NBCUniversal, Fox, PBS, PBS America, ABS-CBN and A+E Networks UK are some of the biggest broadcasters availing Amagi’s services across the US and EMEA today.

For them, Amagi offers a whole host of solutions to ease or enhance every stage of their broadcast operations, using our cloud-native solutions.

This includes using the cloud to virtualize their broadcast operations, manage their content distribution across cable and OTT platforms, manage their live, non-live and on-demand content, and monetise their content.

Unlike other legacy vendors who are simply migrating their services to the cloud, Amagi’s USP is that its products and services have been architected entirely on the cloud, bringing with it an inherent set of capabilities that cloud-migrated legacy applications cannot offer.

For instance, ABS-CBN, a leading entertainment network from the Philippines, were keen to expand their reach further and add flexibility and scalability to their operations. ABS-CBN chose Amagi’s award-winning channel playout solution, Amagi CLOUDPORT.

By leveraging multiple competencies of Amagi on the cloud – spinning up and deliver channels on the go, adding feature-rich graphic templates to live and on-demand content, among others – ABS-CBN was able to do away with a lot of existing legacy infrastructure, which translated into lower costs, fewer overheads, more efficient operations, and the ability to free up resources to focus on other priorities.

Amagi’s flexible engagement model is another value add for large broadcasters. We offer three types of engagement models – Bring Your Own License, Software as a Service and Managed Services – enabling broadcasters to deploy the model that best fits their needs.

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