Forecasting 2021: Data Analytics, Security, Video Platforms, Delivery

  • By Adrian Pennington

Forecasting 2021: Data Analytics, Security, Video Platforms, Delivery

Contributing Editor Adrian Pennington reflects on a year of unprecedented change during which the word unprecedented was used an unprecedented number of times - the media industry experienced futureshock. With a rocket put under the heels of organizations previously reluctant to commit to cloud, the reverberations will continue into 2021 and beyond. Here industry leaders assess the impact of cloud and what technology strategies CTOs should pursue in the new year…


Hiroshi Kajita, Head of Media Solutions, Sony Professional Solutions Europe

“In 2020, we saw a number of media organisations implementing global production platforms with proxy workflows and cloud editing tools in order to establish collaborative production for creative teams forced to work remotely from different locations e.g. Reuters who selected Sony’s media backbone HIVE platform to digitise their production facilities.

Broadcasters that have adopted this technology, are already thinking ahead about how they can use them creatively. One huge benefit for media organisations is being able to work with very best talent to collaborate on projects quickly and easily, no matter their location. As such in 2021, media organisations will continue to investigate which parts of their content supply chains should run “on-premises”, on a private cloud or in the public cloud. In addition to this, they will be looking at when they need to move each part of the chain to the cloud to gain further benefits through the application of AI and data analytics.

The increase of data and its transmission will also mean that security will become a big focus for the industry, especially when it comes to IP and cloud-based workflows. Industry players will turn to solutions that are built with solid security credentials like Sony Ci platform.”


Geoff Stedman, Enterprise Media Strategist, AWS Elemental    

“Cloud broadcasters will take advantage of cloud-based high quality transport services to simplify point-to-point live video distribution while both dramatically lowering their distribution costs and increasing flexibility to build distribution workflows in minutes. The reliable, secure transport of live video from ground-to-cloud and from cloud-to-ground will enable broadcasters to eliminate costly on-premises infrastructure and move the majority of the applications for an end-to-end media workflow to the cloud, from ingest and production to playout and distribution.

As existing workflows move to the cloud in 2021, we will also see entirely new forms of personalised content, ranging from sophisticated personalized advertising to more complex personalised linear channels, all enabled by the flexibility and agility that cloud-based workflows can deliver.”


Stuart Boorn, VP Product Management, MediaKind  

“OTT and streaming services have been the winners of 2020, having enjoyed a considerable uptake in consumer demand. While this trend was already in motion before the pandemic and consequential shelter-in-place orders, it has undoubtedly been ignited by consumers looking to fill additional free time for news and entertainment streaming. As a result, operators now realize their needs are evolving.

We are now seeing operators increasingly embrace streaming technology as part of their core business model, either by deploying their own streaming services or partnering with existing streaming platforms to create a converged offering. They recognise and understand the value of the streaming model. This has led to a fundamental shift in the streaming landscape and has inspired an evolution in media business models and market strategies.

We expect a wholesale shift to streaming as a means of offsetting the impact of cord-cutting, as well as a way of introducing unique and compelling content to consumers under one aggregated platform. This investment will ultimately help operators diversify their offerings, deliver modern TV services, and open up new monetisation routes.”  


Peter Docherty, Founder and CTO, ThinkAnalytics

“We will see service providers start to broaden their capabilities to help consumers discover assets such as podcasts, games, books and related merchandising using a single platform. This opens up new revenue opportunities as operators start merchandising these and cross-selling, for example recommending tickets to concerts or fairs based on the TV shows viewers watch and the games they play.

After a slow burn, the various addressable advertising roadblocks - ad insertion, dynamic pricing and bidding systems - are all falling  into place. While Sky blazed a trail with AdSmart for years, these new solutions go deeper - matching ads at the individual rather than segment or household level. This is made possible by using profiling data and intelligence gained from AI and ML algorithms to hyper-segment audiences and build a detailed picture of individual-level viewing behaviour over time.

Metadata enrichment will become even more important in a super-aggregated world as it underpins content understanding/intelligence, optimised discovery and viewer profiling. As this evolves, we will see the greater application of AI / ML to generate multi-dimensional tags that define and explain the DNA of each asset at a granular level - for example, the different elements of a plot, narrative styles, formats and moods. There is also growing demand for metadata enhancement in non-video assets such as podcasts that are increasingly being added to service providers’ portfolios.”


Carlos Hernandez, Chief Revenue Officer, SSIMWAVE

“With big titles moving to premium SVOD instead of theatrical releases - Hamilton comes to mind - video quality will play a bigger role in differentiating services. Defining video quality, rather than simply measuring it, will be increasingly important. Managing that relationship between cost and quality becomes more complex as services continue to scale to millions of users in different regions. We think 2021 will bring a greater need for technology that can balance bitrate cost and viewer experiences to optimize workflow efficiency and subscriber satisfaction.”


Anil Jain, MD Media & Entertainment, Industry Solutions, Google Cloud

“At a foundational level, data is integral to monitoring and measuring all of a company’s operational facets - from marketing to subscribers, content delivery, revenue, customer care and engagement. While many companies have adequate telemetry across all these data generating actions, it’s commonplace for it to be aggregated into data warehouses, data marts, and data lakes, often updated and accessed in batch processes. The complexity of unifying and correlating data often leads to delays in extracting and analyzing data and changes to data sources, schemas, or accuracy can have a ripple effect to the entire data processing pipeline.

Companies that can quickly and efficiently transform data into insights will move into positions of leadership and accelerate their growth. This transformation needs to be automated, predictive, and as close to real time as possible. To achieve this, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will be critical enablers for every data opportunity.

  • From a monetization standpoint, AI/ML can proactively identify at-risk subscribers for activation, conversion, and retention. It can provide best next actions, through automation of campaigns or enablement of customer call centre agents.
  • For advertising, AI/ML can identify problematic creatives or programmatic sources, optimizing ad targeting, frequency, and pod durations based on viewing context.
  • AI/ML can also extend to measuring visual and audible brand exposure during live events and pre-recorded content for digital audiences.
  • AI/ML can unlock additional value in content, from automating the transcription and translation of live or pre-recorded content to identifying and labelling shot-by-shot for news, sports, and narrative content.

Data in and of itself is a great blank canvas, but actively leveraging AI/ML will be a necessary means for companies to paint a picture that strengthens their relationship with viewers.”


Nick Thexton, Chief Technology Officer, Synamedia

“As consumers we are loyal to content, not platforms. If you’re a Game of Thrones addict the chances are you will follow the content to whatever platform has secured the rights. For platform operators, knowing which shows are worth the investment and which aren’t is vital - helping to keep subscribers loyal while protecting and growing revenues. In 2021 we will see operators shift away from maintaining massive data lakes and performing basic analytics and focus instead on deriving insights about rights utilisation to inform business decisions and ensure they are monetising their investments effectively.

We will see more intelligence added to caches so they can handle video processing at the edge, as well as caching and storage.  Moving just-in-time packaging to the cache rather than the origin server makes it possible to support unique copy playback with a cloud DVR service - essential for the US market. We may also see more content providers following Netflix’s lead and introducing dedicated cache servers into service providers’ networks to ensure a fantastic viewing experience for their content as part of an aggregated model.

As live content streaming grows in popularity this approach may well become standard, alongside the use of multicast ABR and other technologies for the smooth delivery of multiple low latency streams as part of service providers’ managed services.”


Andre Christensen, CEO and Co-Founder, Firstlight Media

“Dramatic increases in streaming in 2020 exposed holes in providers’ architectures and showed the need for quick response to market changes. We think 2021 is going to be a breakthrough year for more flexible cloud-based solutions that can accelerate time to market, improve user engagement, and create new revenue streams much more cost effectively.

The new wave of cloud innovation and deployment coming in 2021 will go beyond the limitations even of cloud-based services that are already in-market. Our research has shown that when you have a lighter, containerized and modular fully cloud-based architecture you reduce time to market and development efforts needed for new services or new features by more than 60-75%.

You also dramatically improve metrics like latency, compute consumption, and QoS by similar ranges. The ability to quickly iterate and respond to user behaviour makes a big impact on business performance indicators like churn, customer lifetime value, and ARPU.”