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Major TV companies back AWS Elemental Media Services as they look to cloud workflows

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AWS Elemental Media Services, which combines the video processing prowess of AWS Elemental with the cloud computing, storage and security functions of Amazon Web Services, has rounded-off a suite of products that it believes will kick-start the serious migration of television headends and workflows into the cloud. Announcing its bundle of options for live broadcast encoding, live streaming, live streaming start-over, transcode-to-VOD, storage and targeted ad insertion, at its annual ‘AWS re:Invent’ gathering, the company also gave a long list of ‘incumbent’ and challenger media companies who plan to use its solutions to move chunks of their operations into the cloud. These include the UK telco and Pay TV provider BT.

The Australian subscription sports leader FOX SPORTS, and Australian broadcaster Nine are also among the companies who participated in an ‘extensive private preview’ of the solutions. Not surprisingly, Amazon Prime is using AWS Elemental Media Services for its live sports streaming, including for the NFL Thursday Night football it now has the rights to (for simulcast streaming). But the global scale of that distribution deal adds an interesting additional element to the cloud operations architecture that Amazon Prime relies on.

AWS Elemental Media Services believes we are witnessing a generational shift in the way television is produced, prepared and distributed, which will see media companies slowly moving out of the infrastructure business to focus on content generation. “With just a few clicks in the AWS Management Console, customers can build customised video applications and pay only for the technology resources they use, without upfront capital investment,” the company declares.

“AWS Elemental Media Services eliminate the need to procure expensive equipment for video data centers. These services automate what were previously complex, labour-intensive processes that manage on-going video operations. We let providers avoid wasted infrastructure due to on-going technology obsolescence,” the company adds. “[Media companies] can focus on making great content that is delivered via the cloud instead of building and maintaining on-premises video infrastructure.”

The list of companies willing to associate themselves with the new solution suite is impressive, certainly for a launch announcement. BT is already using AWS Elemental, including for its BT Sport coverage, and the company plans to use AWS Elemental Media Services for its next-generation video headend infrastructure, used to deliver video both to Internet-connected devices and traditional broadcast set-top boxes. That means extending workflows to the cloud.

“Rationalising our on-premises converged headend and extending that infrastructure widely across the BT enterprise requires an all-in shift to the cloud,” declares Ian Parr, Director TV and Broadband Infrastructure for BT. “The ease-of-use with these AWS console-based services for end-to-end workflows will provide a level of flexibility and efficiency that will be a game-changer for our industry, while providing a flexible option that can co-exist with legacy on-premises live and on-demand infrastructure deployments.”

Amazon Video has built its end-to-end architecture for live sports in the cloud, in a classic example of ‘eating your own dog food’. “Offering live sports like NFL games globally, over-the-top on a large number of devices is complex,” points out BA Winston, Global Head of Video Playback and Delivery for Amazon Video. “We used the AWS Elemental MediaTailor service, which allows us to deliver targeted ads that are seamlessly inserted into the main content, for a great viewer experience.

“Our end-to-end architecture was engineered for low latency to minimize time-behind-live performance, and we implemented user-centric features like viewer-selectable audio tracks. I am confident that AWS Elemental Media Services are the path to use the cloud for live streaming at scale.”

AWS Elemental MediaTailor is one of the five product sets outlined at re:Invent. This allows companies to insert targeted advertising into video without sacrificing quality – the aim being to increase viewer engagement as well as boost revenues.

Amazon Prime Video is streaming 11 NFL games this season, including 10 Thursday Night Football match-ups and a special Christmas Day fixture. It says these games will reach tens of millions of customers in more than 200 countries and territories. The live coverage is available across more than 600 devices.

The other solutions that make up the product set are:

  • AWS Elemental MediaLive, for encoding broadcast-grade live video for televisions or connected devices. You can quickly stand up broadcast channels or live events and deliver them reliably to your viewers, AWS says.
  • AWS Elemental MediaPackage. This is for preparing and protecting live video streams for delivery to Internet devices with rich playback experience features such as start-over TV.
  • AWS Elemental MediaConvert, for formatting and compressing VOD content for delivery to virtually any playback device, with high-quality video transcoding and broadcast-level features.
  • AWS Elemental MediaStore. This is for delivering video from high-performance storage optimised for media.

FOX SPORTS, the sports broadcaster that is home to Australia’s most popular subscription TV sports channels, is looking to adopt the AWS Cloud and to leverage the end-to-end live event and content monetisation workflows available in the cloud through AWS Elemental Media Services, the company revealed. A key focus for FOX is scale.

Australian broadcaster Nine trialled the new AWS Elemental Media Services, including AWS Elemental MediaLive and AWS Elemental MediaPackage, to expand its live streaming video offerings through the main 9News website. Nine provides entertainment, news, sports and lifestyle programming.

“In our preview of the new AWS Elemental Media Services, we have been impressed by the speed of set-up of MediaLive encoding, MediaPackage and Amazon CloudFront CDN workflow. It means we can rapidly start delivering a live streaming service in minutes,” says Mat Yelavich, Nine’s Chief Information Officer. “We see plenty of opportunity to mature and expand our live streaming capabilities with AWS Elemental Media Services.”

Meanwhile, Singapore-based Spuul, the VOD provider, will support its live streaming service – which also includes 150 linear TV channels – with AWS. These channels are streamed to Australia and New Zealand.

“We must overcome immense geographic distances and time-zone differences to provide the best possible viewer experiences,” says S Mohan, Co-Founder & CEO at Spuul. “We are looking to AWS Elemental MediaLive to give us tremendous scale, elasticity and flexibility within our video processing and delivery infrastructure, and AWS Elemental MediaPackage to support functionalities such as channel delay, seven-day catch-up, and start-over.”

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