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MLBAM Goes Over the Top: The Case for a DIY Approach to OTT

James Corrigan

Advisory Solutions Architect at EMC

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smart tvWhen looking at the current media landscape, the definition of what constitutes a “broadcaster” is undergoing a serious overhaul. Traditional linear TV might not be dead just yet, but it’s clearly having to reinvent itself in order to stay competitive amid rapidly evolving media business models and increasingly diverse content distribution platforms.

The concept of “binge watching” a TV show, for example, was non-existent only a few years ago. Media consumption towards digital and online viewership on a myriad of devices such as smartphones, tablets and PCs is on the rise. Subscription on-demand services are becoming the consumption method of choice, while broadcast-yourself platforms like Twitch and YouTube are fast becoming a popular corner stone of millennial’s viewership habits. Horowitz Research found that over 70 percent of millennials have access to an OTT SVOD service, and they are three times as likely to have an OTT SVOD service without a pay TV subscription. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) estimates that OTT video streaming will grow to be a $10.1 billion business by 2018, up from $3.3 billion in 2013.

As a result, broadcast operators are evolving into media aggregators, and content providers are transforming into “entertainment service providers,” expanding into platforms ranging from mobile to digital to even virtual theme parks.

Building Versus Buying:

This change in media consumption requires media organizations to consider a more efficient storage compute and network infrastructure. Media organizations need flexible and agile platforms to not only expand their content libraries but also to meet the dynamic growth in the number of subscribers and how they consume and experience media and entertainment.

To successfully compete in OTT market is dependent upon the “uniqueness” of your service to the consumer , This uniqueness comes from either having unique or exclusive content, or by having a platform which is able to adapt and offer the customer more than just watching content. For the latter how you deploy your solution whether it be (1) build your own (“DIY”), (2) buy a turn-key solution or (3) take a hybrid approach, is key to success.

MLBAM Hits a Home Run with a DIY Approach

A key advantage of the “DIY” approach is that it increases business agility, allowing media organizations to adapt and change, as consumers demand more from their services. For some media organizations this  allows them to leverage existing content assets, infrastructure and technology teams and keep deployment costs low. Further, layering OTT video delivery on top of regular playout enables organizations to incrementally add the new workflow to the existing content delivery ecosystem. For new entrants,  the DIY approach enables  new development methodologies, allowing these “new kids on the block” to develop micro-services unencumbered by legacy services.

One example of an organization taking the DIY approach is Isilon customer Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM), which has created a streaming media empire. MLBAM’s success underscores the voracious and rapid growth in consumer demand for streaming video; it streams sporting events, and also supports the streaming service HBO GO, as well as mobile, web and TV offerings for the NHL.

“The reality is that now we’re in a situation where digital distribution isn’t just a ‘nice to have’ strategy, it’s an essential strategy for any content company,” said Joe Inzerillo, CTO for MLBAM. “When I think about…how we’re going to be able to innovate, I often tell people ‘I don’t manage technology, I actually manage velocity.’ The ability to adapt and innovate and move forward is absolutely essential.”

Alternatively, the turn-key approach, which either outsources your media platform or gives you a pre-built video delivery infrastructure, can offer benefits such as increased speed-to-market. However, selecting the right outsource partner for this approach is critical; you choose incorrectly and it can create vendor lock-in, loss of control and flexibility and larger operational costs.

Making it Personal: Analytics’ Role

3D smart tv with hand holding remote control isolatedBeing able to access content when and where consumer’s want – on the device they want – is one part of the challenge with the rise of digital and online content. Another key component is personalization of that content to viewers. Making content more relevant and tailored for subscribers is critical to the success of alternate broadcast business models – EMC and Pivotal are helping media companies extract insights on customers through the development and use of analytics should be key to any OTT strategy. Analyzing data on what consumers are watching should be used to help drive content acquisition and personalized recommendation engines. The added benefits of personalized advertisement of content through targeted ad insertion will help increase revenue through tailored advertisements.

Scaling for the future

Infrastructure platforms that scale is the final consideration for the new age media platforms. Being able to scale “apps” based on containers or virtual instances is key. To do that you need a platform that scales compute, network and storage independently or together, just like EMC’s scale out NAS with Isilon or scale out compute with VCE or VXRail/Rack. MLBAM’s Inzerillo explains. “The ability to have a technology like Isilon that’s flexible, so that the size of the data lake can grow as we on board clients, is increasingly important to us. That kind of flexibility allows you to really focus on total cost of ownership of the custodianship of the data.”

Inzerillo continues, “If you’re always worried about the sand that you’re standing on, because it’s shifting, you’re never going to be able to jump, and  what we need to be able to do is sprint.”

It’s an exciting time to be in the ever-evolving media and entertainment space – the breadth of offerings that broadcasters and media companies are developing today, and the range of devices and distribution models to reach subscribers will only continue to grow.

Check out how MLBAM improves customer experience through OTT.

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