Steve Guggenheimer, Microsoft’s corporate vice president and chief evangelist, discusses the changes that are taking place across the media industry, and outlines what he believes will be key to success in the future.
The digital transformation of content has led to huge opportunities for disruption in the media industry. “New ways of creating, distributing and receiving content has opened the door for new entrants,” says Steve Guggenheimer, Microsoft’s corporate vice president and chief evangelist. “Evolution is now about deciding how much a media company wants to do and not just what they will specialize in. Some content creators are transforming into distributors by having their own apps. Disrupters that didn’t exist a decade ago are buying and creating content while also having a direct relationship with the customer. Customers are no longer confined to TVs, but also have a wide range of devices powered by the cloud that enables them to consume live and on-demand content. Viewing options are limitless.”
For media companies, the challenge is significant. “Technology advances in mobile, cloud, artificial intelligence (AI) and more mean that established media companies will have to transform or risk disruption from emerging companies,” Guggenheimer says. “This is widely known, but the tougher challenge is how to embrace new businesses while managing your existing business. The explosion in the variety of devices means you have to be more thoughtful on how people are consuming your content. However, if you look at how the media industry is evolving, there are greater opportunities for companies to expand along the creation, distribution and receiving parts of the value chain. Even though the landscape is challenging for transformers and disrupters, there are great opportunities ahead.”
Guggenheimer says that Microsoft is ideally placed to help companies facing these challenges. “Microsoft has had to face an industry in transformation a few times,” he explains. “We started as a client computing company, transformed into a client/server company and now we are transforming into a mobile-first, cloud-first company. For media companies that are facing a changing industry we have the breadth of platforms, technologies and experience to help.”
It seems clear that Microsoft knows what it is doing in this space when you look at its impressive client list. Azure Media Services, the company’s cloud solution for encoding, encrypting, streaming audio or video at scale, live or on-demand – across any device, has been used for multiple large-scale live events including the Rio 2016 Summer Games, Sochi 2014 Winter Games, multiple Super Bowls and regular NBC Sports live and VOD programming.
And that’s just the start. “We have also seen solutions built on other technologies to create unique solutions. For example, Dynamics being used to help track rights management and contract compliance.
“Microsoft is unique in that it covers the breadth of computing platforms, our depth of computer science research and our global connections all over the world. We have a unique partnering perspective where we will work very closely with our partners to help them succeed. In the past this has also included coding with developers from other companies. We believe in enduring partnerships. Needs evolve over time and as a media company’s needs grow we will have the technology and global presence to scale with them.”
Guggenheimer points to a number of media companies who are leveraging Microsoft technologies to great effect. “There are transforming companies like Imagine Communications that is transitioning to the public cloud to enable new scenarios for DVRs, digital ad insertion and more. Meanwhile, SetKeeper automates the manual process of coordinating the production of TVs and movies. With it you can track actors, props, food, costumes and more. And Live Arena has used Azure Media Services to enable anyone to create live or on-demand TV channels. This was used recently to broadcast a 24-hour robotic surgery event using 15 robotic centres in 5 different continents.”
With companies like these already carving a successful path in the industry, Guggenheimer believes that a successful future lies ahead for those media organizations that are willing to
innovate. “The advances in AI will have a large impact on how people discover and interact with content,” he says. “What we have seen so far is just the start. Advances in natural language processing and computer vision will make it easier to auto index content – making it more discoverable in the future. Improved discoverability will also change our viewing habits. Some argue that user attention will be the most valuable metric in the future and personally relevant content will help it be seen. The explosion in platforms will require a broad range of distribution points to reach the critical mass of users that were historically accessible from just focusing on TV. Recommendation engines that know what you like, what others around you are viewing and your time constraints will play a powerful role in what you see.”