The Changing Face of the Entertainment Industry

Stephen Fridakis, CISO, HBO
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Stephen Fridakis, CISO, HBO

Stephen Fridakis, CISO, HBO

The Entertainment & Media industry is changing due to the way technology has changed the way we consume and connect. The transformation across multi-channel experience, AI driven recommendations and creative content, video-on-demand, OTT/Streaming, VR/ AR and smarter advertising are being enabled by adoption of new technology.

If we were to identify something iconic for the media and broadcasting industry it would probably be a coax cable. For so many years, we associated distributing video with coax but recently, we have been advocating that all this will be a thing of the past as we move to IP for broadcast. With the advent of high definition, 4K or even 8K TV, we start to consider broadcasting as truly format-independent, making strictly IP broadcasting inevitable.

The Media and broadcasting industry is transitioning to cloud architecture. Similar to other industries is lured by the cloud architecture’s flexibility and high availability. As a result of this adoption we also have to change technical operations to share operational and security responsibilities with the cloud provider.

IP based movie production makes filming workflows more attainable and productions more economical. Quality withstanding, the pressure to reduce production costs is immense impacted by many new distribution channels and competition. Key serial device interface (SDI) technologies are being replaced by totally new components that are now becoming the new norm. A routing switch, for instance, is an essential SDI component acting as a switch for distributing signals. We typically size them based on input and output ports. Every broadcast site, installation and even truck previously used one of them resulting in a very significant investment. The current alternative-an IP router, is much more mainstream and economical.

 With the advent of high definition, 4K or even 8K TV, we start to consider broadcasting as truly format-independent making strictly IP broadcasting inevitable 

It is essential for our viewers to consume on any platform ranging from a phone to a computer to a game console or to a highly sophisticated home theatre. All of this can be achieved using IP routers who are designed to simply distribute data packets without worrying about the content or format of the data. The same IP switch can be used in principle for SD and 4K video, for uncompressed, as for compressed signals. The only limits are the bandwidth/data rate of the network and the devices used. Other than that IP networks are completely format-independent. The future of immersive audio, gaming and multi-device interactive experiences or AR/VR is only possible by converting media and broadcast operation to solely IP.

IP broadcasting has offered the opportunity to acquire technology from many new partners and providers. Purchasing choices such as outsourcing and “software-as-a-service” allow us to take our products into new territories quickly. Establishing the technology for a single event or and once aired reducing it to standard levels is now mainstream. IP structures make it possible to work more flexibly and to use scalable technology.

IP broadcasting affects how we distribute media and how we integrate or replace existing SDI equipment to new IP hardware. It is also about transporting signals via LAN cabling and network switches. The applicable standards have not fully mature yet even though the majority of our industry appears to favor SMPTE 2022, while simultaneously the LLVC and TICO codec for compression debate in ongoing.

Once content is contributed to and from remote sites it can easily find its way to the consumer, and to our broadcasting partners. Benefiting from WAN network connectivity, and availability, and the massive increase in data bandwidth available today, we can realize remote production. Converting studios and broadcasting complexes to IP is happening and is now the underlying infrastructure for audio, video and control data.

The business opportunities and new technologies are boundless, but all of this is happening in a connected world that presents mounting security challenges. The connected and disaggregated world of media broadcasting represents a growing attack surface that can be exploited. Creative artists need their work to be protected and be rewarded without worrying about their content being stolen or compromised.

Media production networks, corporate IT, media storage locations, and customer data must be access controlled and defended against intrusion. Media security professionals quickly abandon any notion of perimeter control and employ instead what we refer to as “context based security”. This method aims at understanding where your assets are and allocating security features based on their current risk profile. This is a security model well suited for protecting video content and broadcast infrastructure contained within third parties and produced in short timeframes. It relies on proactive features such as secure access, alerting upon detection of any threats and specific controls applicable to distributed content or as part of the playback device. Additional features include digital rights management to protect video delivery to multiple screens and piracy prevention that can locate, identify, verify, and eliminate any potential video theft.

This is an exciting time in our industry. We work intensively towards fully adopting IP technology. As with all new technologies, we use them at different speeds, and we are engaging in a discussion about standards and approaches with manufacturers and regulators. The technical future belongs to the broadcasting of IP technology and exciting content will be delivered to any device with the opportunity to interact using virtualized production/playout, and software-defined infrastructure.

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