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Riding the Digital Wave: Media companies adopt new technologies to improve user engagement

September 27, 2018

The media and entertainment industry is at the cusp of a revolution. The proliferation of digital streaming touchpoints and demand for better content delivery is driving traditional media companies to craft new business strategies in order to remain competitive in an omni-channel environment, with technology as the cornerstone of all major initiatives.

 

The technological roadmap of the media and entertainment industry has two major objectives: to ensure a great end-user experience and effective monetisation of content. New technological solutions such as internet of things (IoT), data analytics, cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI) are helping companies achieve these objectives. These tools are helping companies track consumer behaviour, deliver timely content across multiple channels and explore new sources of revenue. Further, they are addressing a range of media-specific needs, from optimising content on digital devices and broadcasting live from the field to scaling up distribution capabilities.

Cloud computing

Media and entertainment companies are witnessing significant uptake of cloud-based solutions, driven by changing customer demand patterns and increasing time and cost pressures. In order to provide on-demand services to customers, companies need extremely scalable computing power that only cloud computing can provide. Further, cloud gives companies flexibility in managing complex business and revenue models that can help them engage fragmented audiences. Cloud also helps companies reduce roll-out cycles and time to market of new content plans and experiences; and continuously expand the existing content library.

Moreover, cloud computing in the media and entertainment industry offers opportunities to reduce technology and storage costs, which can help balance the rising costs in other areas. By shifting from a capex model to a cloud-based opex model, companies can reduce their sunk costs in storage, delivery technologies and infrastructure. By using cloud solutions, companies are also able to deliver high streaming performance with minimum delays and downtime.

While cloud offers a plethora of benefits to the media and entertainment companies, concerns related to the security of content on the cloud, and lack of high reliability and high bandwidth connectivity are preventing the large-scale adoption of this technology. However, vendors are addressing these challenges by creating awareness about the benefits of cloud solutions and allaying fears regarding the security of content.

Data analytics

Companies in the entertainment and media industry have better access to data as compared to other verticals since users, by consuming content, automatically disclose details such as the type of content and format they like, their viewing and consumption patterns, and even recommendations. Traditionally, the analysis of this data has been done based on human intelligence. However, with the emergence of online streaming platforms, it has become humanly impossible to assimilate and derive meaningful patterns from the ever-increasing data sets. Companies are, therefore, resorting to advanced analytics solutions to analyse the data and let the systems throw up interesting hypotheses, which then mixed with human intelligence are generating better business decisions.

IoT

Media and entertainment companies globally are leveraging IoT to deliver content to connected objects, and collect, transmit and monetise data from them. The in-depth insights provided by IoT-enabled smart devices is helping companies respond to evolving customer needs and deliver personalised, contextually relevant entertainment experiences to consumers. According to a report by Accenture, the annual spending per company in the media industry is comparable with other sectors. This is poised to grow significantly in the next few years.

Publishers and broadcasters are the major beneficiaries of IoT today as the technology enables them to use data on consumer location, preferences, behaviour and demographics to create and deliver personalised content across various platforms. Entertainment companies, too, are integrating IoT with their platforms to enhance customer experience across their services and content propositions. For example, US-based media and entertainment conglomerate Disney has invested $1 billion in IoT since 2008 to provide its customers with a connected experience in all the Disney-themed parks.

Further, as per Accenture, IoT has unleashed an opportunity for digital content providers and aggregators to move beyond the traditional content and entertainment space and offer a multitude of new services such as utilities, smart metering and home automation. These services can be offered directly or in partnership with cross-industry players within the same subscription packages. Moreover, IoT is helping media enterprises devise targeted advertisements that appeal to specific individuals, thereby improving the client conversion ratio, and boosting ad spends and subscription income.

AI

AI is significantly changing the media landscape, in terms of both  content creation and distribution, and users’ engagement with content. Further, the technology is helping media companies automate tasks that have been largely human intensive, thereby yielding greater efficiency, scalability, and cost savings. For instance, companies are using machine learning algorithms to automate audio/video synchronisation, language translation, audio transcription, content tagging, video encoding, anomaly detection, content fingerprinting, video quality assessment, post-production processes, etc.

AI is helping companies design targeted advertising campaigns. For example, US-based American film studio Twentieth Century Fox used IBM’s AI system, Watson, to create a trailer for the horror movie Morgan. The AI tool analysed visual, audio, and other elements in 100 horror movies to decide on the kind of “moments” that should appear in a standard horror movie trailer. With the help of Watson, Fox was able to create the six-minute movie trailer in a single day that may have otherwise taken human professionals weeks to produce. Going forward, AI is expected to help companies deliver precision-targeted advertising and real-time product placement based on the content the user is watching at that moment.

AI is also being adopted by digital streaming platforms to enhance the viewing experience. US-based Netflix has collaborated with the University of Southern California and the University of Nantes in France to develop a new machine learning methodology called Dynamic Optimiser, which can compress video without degrading image quality to ensure a smooth and high quality streaming experience for its customers, especially in countries such as India that have inconsistent network availability.

AI is finding applications in the publishing space as well. For example, US magazine Forbes is developing a new publishing platform, Bertie, which would serve as an AI assistant to writers. Bertie learns from the writing style of the authors and then makes suggestions aimed at improving the quality of the given piece.

In India, Zee Entertainment is leveraging AI-powered tools to drive the efficiency of its various operations. For example, the company makes use of AI while deciding on the purchase of movie streaming rights for its various channels. The technology assists the company in making its decision based on various factors such as the current library, movie ratings, user requirements and preferences, etc. Going forward, Zee plans to use AI to determine the automated scheduling of programmes on various channels and for effective meta-tagging of content.

Augmented and virtual reality

Augmented reality (AR) refers to computer displays that add virtual information to a user’s sensory perceptions. AR-powered devices are usually worn on the head, which overlay graphics and text on the user’s view of his/her surroundings. AR is being effectively used in the entertainment space, for motion picture, television and other media promotional campaigns. The current season of Kaun Banega Crorepati is using AR, the first for any Indian TV programme, to ensure a more immersive experience for the viewers.

Meanwhile, virtual reality (VR) immerses users into imaginatively and spontaneously created digital worlds. In the media industry, VR is being used to draw users deeper into the content and help them experience the visuals from a first-person perspective. For example, the United Nation’s 360° film Clouds Over Sidra, which highlighted the plight of refugees from the Syrian war, used the immersive VR storytelling medium to make viewers feel as if they were present within the refugee camp.

Conclusion

Changing consumer preferences for content and increased consumer exposure to globally relevant digital content is driving enterprises in the media and entertainment space to step up their IT investments. Moreover, the move towards greater IT adoption by the media and entertainment industry is being driven by the need to reduce costs in an increasingly competitive landscape and, at the same time, generate revenue from delivering content and data through diverse platforms and products.

To ride the wave of opportunities offered by next-generation technological tools, companies need to evolve appropriate operating models and acquire technology-specific skills. There is also a need for greater collaboration among all the players in the ecosystem, including content providers, communication service providers and over-the-top service providers.

 
 

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