Turner, one of the United States’ largest global media companies, currently delivers international programming through 38 brands in 36 languages to more than 200 countries via its Technology and Operations team.
Much of the content it delivers is produced in the U.S. but must be edited before making its way to viewers of the more than 190 channels around the world. It also needs to work with locally produced content specifically catered to local markets. This mix of content origin with distributed post-production activities makes for a very complex environment.
There are inherent challenges when you take a U.S. model and extrapolate it to the international landscape. One of those is that bandwidth is not ubiquitous.
The original, centralized model for production and delivery utilized the company’s internal network links, posing no technical issues for regional distribution.
But when it came to managing production of content all over the world, the performance difficulties in transmitting so much media between U.S. headquarters and global locations ended up choking off networks between international offices and prevented a smooth content flow.
The second challenge was compatibility. Many regional headquarters and play-out facilities were using different methods to move files, which required engineering ways to make them compatible. Collaboration between facilities was difficult and time-consuming; sending and receiving outsourced content, even more so.
“When you’re creating new content specifically for local viewers in 200 countries rather than delivering relevant programming from other regions, at some point the cost base exceeds the revenue from the market you are trying to serve,” says Rick Cole, Turner’s Senior VP of International Technology and Operations,. “In addition, our strategic goal is to serve our consumers wherever they may reside. Using cloud technologies gives us location independence and the efficiencies of scale.”
To address both of these big issues, Turner looked to its Latin America operations, where the same problem had already been solved.
Media broadcasting is huge in Latin America. Driven by vibrant markets in Argentina, Chile, Mexico and Brazil, the the region represents the largest business for Turner International.
In 2013, Turner’s Latin America operations faced a similar challenge in its need to accelerate international
content traffic. This typically involved production members delivering locally produced content to and from locations across Latin America and the U.S., back to Buenos Aires where the main uplink and distribution hub for the region is located. “The basic functionality Turner needed was acceleration, and we’d tried different solutions over the years,” said Luis Esparza, Turner’s VP of Technology and Operations for Latin America.
The solutions, Esparza ultimately chose to standardize on, Signiant Media Shuttle and Signiant Flight, satisfied the region’s accelerated content transfer needs in the initial stage and increased automation and use of cloud technologies in the second phase.
First, Media Shuttle was put in place for individual team members to securely accelerate the transfer of assets they needed during production. Then the Signiant Flight application was implemented to automate delivery to cloud storage for distribution in an accelerated time frame.
Cole noticed the efficiencies that Esparza gained and decided to make it the international standard for the technology and operations teams across the globe.
Moving content from the U.S. to the U.K. was one of the first notable improvements once Signiant file acceleration was put into place. Instead of using different network data links to transfer content from the Atlanta media hub to each location in Europe, Turner’s international operations was able to accelerate content simultaneously to multiple locations.
According to Cole, “Outsourcing specific pieces of the media supply chain is a key component to the international operations model. By using internet connections, automation, and acceleration, we are able to avail ourselves of capacity and capabilities wherever they exist. The Signiant products we have deployed have been a key enabler.”
Beyond crossing distances and time zones, leveraging the cloud in more aggressive ways will continue to be more important. Turner owns multiple data centers distributed around the world that support on-premises technology and large volumes of storage.
“If I move technical operations out of commercial space that was never built to be a data center, I also get to pull out the extra air conditioning and the extra power considerations. Those things add up pretty quickly and the savings can fund more content creation and acquisition,” says Cole.
Because the cloud becomes an intermediary in the workflow, Signiant Flight opens up the possibilities for cloud-based operations on the content.
“We are in an evolutionary phase with the cloud,” says Cole. “The ultimate goal is to have our content, our transcode and our post capabilities in the cloud. Once we do that, we have almost infinite scale and can personalize our feeds to give our fans the best possible media experience possible.”