On-your-marks

Back in 2007-2008 the Creative Writers strikes in the USA caused many productions to be halted meaning TV schedules filled up with repeats and a new era of TV programme formats and new content consumption methods took hold.

Creative Strike

In 2007, following a breakdown in negotiations between the writers and the studios, the writers downed pens for 100 days. This period of relative creative inactivity had a number of knock on effects, the main ones, that are relevant to today, are: 

  • “In total, the strike cost the state of California over $2 billion and 37,700 jobs, according to nonprofit economic think tank the Milken Institute”* 
  • While scripted series were forced to take a break during the strike, unscripted formats (reality shows etc) took advantage of the insatiable appetite of content hungry audiences. 
  • It is also thought that this hiatus in production also paved the way for new-fangled streaming services to take hold. At that point Netflix and Love Film were shipping millions of DVDs a week as consumers searched for more and more content.

COVID19/Coronavirus 

The current situation is far far worse for content creators as it does not just impact creative teams and productions in the USA but is impacting and halting productions on a global scale. From Empire in the USA to EastEnders in the UK, production is being delayed or scaled back. This disruption affects both scripted and unscripted output as the safety of crew, staff and talent is brought to the fore. 

At least in 2007 we could watch live sports. Not so today. Everything is cancelled from 6 Nations rugby and the NBA season to Euro 2020 and the international tiddlywinks league. At time of writing it is doubtful that the Olympics will go ahead on schedule. 

If California lost $2 billion from 100 days down time in 2008, then the loss globally is heading for over a trillion. 

However, a lot has changed in the 13 years since the writers stopped writing. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and Disney streaming services, to name a few, are thriving and not just from new and ‘original content’. People talk about there being a Netflix for sport and DZAN are making headway for sure but to be a true Netflix for sport you need to get the archives online and available to a world full of sports nuts. 

Sure licensing, rights etc. all need to be sorted out but there is a market ready and waiting for this to happen.

Is it such a bad thing to be forced to look into the archive? 

If the success of UKTV is anything to go by people want, nay crave, old shows. Some of their most popular content is stuff from the 80s that is a massive hit with Generation Z and the Millennials. In a time of such uncertainty, the demand for the comfort and familiarity gained when watching these old shows is sure to increase. I watched M.A.S.H with my dad growing up and I love to watch it now as it is a comforting thing to do and it is still funny! 

Some people in the Sports industry have said that there is not a thirst to consume archive content as there is so much live action going on. I did not think that was the case before the global production shutdown but weeks and months like this show that it cannot be the case as we move into the new reality. 

Looking into the archive can give us great insight into how things were done, the history of our great sports and often we can learn a trick or two: 

  • For me I love watching the classic rugby matches, I will never tire of watching Scott Gibbs score the try that beat England in 1990 at Wembley. I am also an NFL fan so just today I spent 10 mins watching Tom Brady’s 10 best plays and loved it. 
  • For our CEO, football is his thing. But even in supporting a second tier team (Luton Town) his passion for them has him digging through YouTube to find some fairly poor quality and shonky TV recordings. 
  • For my buddies in NY it’s Ice Hockey and Baseball. Watching the first Winter Classic or wincing as the Padres and the Braves slugged it out in 1984.

Technology changes 

One thing that is consistent from 2007 to today is that many sports and entertainment broadcasters still rely on LTO for their archives. As the world went tapeless for production in 2009 the media industry invested in what was the only viable technology at the time, LTO. 

Today media organisations from entertainment and news to OTT and sports are looking to private, hybrid and public cloud storage platforms to ensure that they can not only access their archive content at any time but also to ensure that they can access the content without needing physical access to the robot or library. 

LTO archives often need some manual intervention if not all the tapes are in the robot but as has been highlighted recently we can no longer guarantee access to that infrastructure. LTO still has its place today but it does not suit the dynamic fast turnaround demands now being put on archives today nor is it suited to the demands of creative professionals needing to self-serve from the archive. 

Enabling self-serve requires automation and integration from the creative tools to asset management and storage stacks. Creative professionals have spent too much time looking for content. Metadata in 2007 was written on the LTO tape label and maybe logged in a spreadsheet making content pretty much inaccessible; If you cannot find it, you do not have it. Today metadata plays a very important role in the creative and archiving processes. 

LTO has its place in the stack but not near the dynamic front end and not for metadata exploitation. Public cloud deep archiving also has its place for when things truly go south. 

What is needed right now, and what many agree is the model for the next decade, is a move to hybrid platforms for applications, compute and storage. This enables high performance on-prem workflows and guaranteed data and metadata access for when the world returns to the new normal and the ability to work from anywhere using private or public cloud fabrics and platforms. Hybrid platforms are the best of both worlds, that empowers creativity whilst ensuring business continuity should the worst happen. 

By implementing a hybrid stack creative professionals will be able to self-serve content from work in progress, nearline, archive and deep archive storage platforms regardless of local outage or physical access restrictions. 

Organisations like the Welsh Rugby Union are leading the way by implementing a private cloud archive based on object storage from Object Matrix. Their creative and analytical teams can access content from anywhere in the world where once it sat on shelves or siloed storage. 

For me the ideal broadcast technology stack looks a bit like this: 

– MAMs, DAMs and PAMs for asset management, tracking and collaboration – Fast production disk for editing and creative workflows 

– Secure, robust and scalable media focused object storage on-prem for production 

storage backup, nearline parking, metadata longevity, local archive cache (Hi-res) and a full proxy archive – Offsite object storage for Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity – Public cloud for collaboration and content analysis services – LTO or Deep Cloud archive for the real ‘oh oh’ moments

Summary 

There has always been latent value in sports archives that, had it been fully exploited already, would have been a major income source especially during this time of crises. Now is the time to implement technology stacks that will allow us to exploit that value in the near future, to engage our communities and hopefully to all benefit from our sporting and cultural histories. 

As the writers strike probably created the perfect environment for reality TV to grow now is the window of opportunity for archived and re-purposed content to take center stage. 

To be able to do that archive content needs to be available to creative teams, on demand, from anywhere in the world.

About Object Matrix

Object Matrix is the award winning software company that pioneered object storage and the modernisation of media archives. It exists to enable global collaboration, increase operational efficiencies and empower creativity through deployment of MatrixStore, the on-prem and hybrid cloud storage platform. Their focus on the media industry gives them a deep understanding of the challenges organisations face when protecting, processing and sharing video content. Customers include: BBC, Orange, France Televisions,  BT, HBO, TV Globo, MSG-N and NBC Universal.