Signiant CEO: "The media industry isn't just one monolithic thing"

Signiant Flight and Producers Portal
Neal Romanek
Post Production
January 19th 2017 at 9:27AM : By Neal Romanek

As Discovery announces its partnership with Signiant, we talk to Signiant CEO Margaret Craig about the surge in cloud services for broadcasters

Discovery Communications has announced it will use Signiant's Flight solution for accelerated content delivery to the cloud via Discovery's media asset submission platform, the Producer's Portal. The new system will allow content creators to ingest media directly into cloud object storage rather than physically shipping tapes.

Discovery's Producer's Portal provides content submission services for its producers worldwide, allowing them to send finished programmes and elements to cloud object storage over an internet connection. Using a browser-based interface, producers can initiate high-speed transfers between a Signiant software client at the producer’s facility and Signiant-managed infrastructure in the cloud.

“At Discovery, we are focused on speed of delivery as we move content around the globe to our billions of subscribers. Our focus on speed remains front and center in the transition to the cloud as we look to increase flexibility and efficiency,” said Josh Derby, VP of technology development and strategy, Discovery Communications.  “We rely on Signiant to transfer our content reliably, quickly, and securely as it moves through our global content supply chain.” 

“Discovery’s initiative demonstrates how forward-thinking media companies are embracing the cloud to drive efficiency and cost-effectiveness in their operations,” said Ian Hamilton, CTO at Signiant. “By taking advantage of Signiant Flight’s cloud-native approach to high-speed transfer, they can harness the power of the cloud to make programme submission—and various other downstream cloud processes—more accurate and timely.”


commitment to cloud

TV Tech Global spoke to Signiant CEO Margaret Craig about the current cloud landscape.

"Our Flight product is cloud native and allows Discovery producers to bring their content directly into Amazon S3 cloud object storage," said Craig, who has been at the Signiant helm for five years. "It does classic Signiant acceleration. It’s miminising latency and packet loss so we can send large data files very fast into Amazon. And the servers and software that need to run in Amazon are managed by Signiant as a cloud native deployment, so we handle everything in the cloud."

Signiant's Flight service uses Amazon for Discovery's cloud services, but Flight is also built for Microsoft Azure and other cloud services.

"Our customers want to be cautious about cloud lock-in and they don’t want to be overly dependent on Amazon," said Craig. "They like that Flight is agnostic and, one day, you could just switch over to Microsoft Azure storage."

Margaret Craig is seeing companies moving to embrace cloud solutions more and more: "In 2015 people got to 'it’s not if, but when'. In 2016 it became real, with companies starting to explore or going all in. Some, like Discovery or Turner, have made more of a commitment to cloud. We’ve seen some really dramatic trends. We also have our Media Shuttle product for people to send and share large files. Just in the last six months we’ve seen that almost quadruple."

Craig admits cloud has a way to go before it can fulfill every broadcast or production need.

"Cloud technology isn’t quite there for getting a linear channel on air. All those last little bits and pieces are still evolving and are real technical challenges. There are also economic challenges. You hear people talk about the way cloud providers charge for egress. You have to watch what your charges are going to be when you’re paying every time you pull out content. The billing for cloud platforms is extremely granulated and complicated."

And it's not just the content owners who are still learning about the cloud. Cloud providers are having to adjust to the idiosyncracies of the content industry.

"Cloud companies get enamored of Hollywood and assume that it represents the whole industry. But the vast majority of content is still linear TV content. It’s interesting to see cloud people start to learn about the media buesiness. They know Hollywood, but Discovery, the state broadcasters, the BBC's of the world have huge ballast in terms of the amount of content. So they’re learning that the media industry isn’t just one monolithic thing."


Beyond TV

Signiant is increasingly providing video transport services to non-traditional media companies.

"Another big area for us is video from drones. There are some interesting uses now, with drones capturing video for all kinds of other applications – security, agriculture management, surveying. VR and AR are becoming interesting drivers too. VR and AR have such huge amounts of content, and they're starting to explore the possibilities of cloud.

"And we are seeing more in the arena of corporate and enterprise video. They're shooting things in 4k. And Fortune 1000 companies all have real video capacity in-house. And as we’ve seen the cost of videos and cameras go way down, smaller companies too can have a very video-centric strategy."