Format proliferation costing digital media firms heavily

15 Apr 2008

Format proliferation, content identification and video storage optimisation are the key challenges facing businesses in the digital media distribution industry today, according to a new Sun Microsystems advisory board.

The Sun Media Advisory Board (Sun MAB) comprises Sun and media industry executives and is initially focused on identifying and solving key challenges brought about by a major market shift from isolated, proprietary systems to an integrated file-based workflow across media.

Through the collaboration of its member companies, the Sun MAB is currently engaging in several projects to meet these challenges and aiding companies to adapt to the changing digital media landscape.

The board is currently collaborating to optimise video solutions to meet requirements of major cable and TV programmers, film studios, broadcast networks and content packagers based on Sun and innovative third-party applications.

The Sun MAB agenda is developed by a steering committee comprised of senior executives from MLB Advanced Media, Turner Entertainment Networks and HBO Communications. The board offers participants a non-commercial forum to share and solve issues of common concern in building business models, technology, ecosystems and standards to enable profitable digital media distribution practices.

“Our customers came to us with a desire for an executive forum in which to validate shared business challenges with their peers and work together to identify practical solutions,” said Darrell Jordan-Smith, vice-president for Sun Microsystems’ global communications and media practice.

“The Sun MAB is unique in that it works off a customer-driven agenda, ensuring that its projects and solutions map directly to real and current business challenges. Based on our findings to date, we are already making strides to better equip our customers with the technology they need to compete effectively in the digital age.”

The Sun MAB released findings from its preliminary sessions which found that a proliferation of devices, media players and other content receivers has created nearly limitless opportunities for consumers to access digital content. For content owners and providers to remain competitive, they must master the process of content transformation across a variety of formats and platforms.

The Sun MAB media transformation project is focused on optimising content transcoding in multi-operating system (OS) environments, with a goal of automating and accelerating the ingest-encode-transcode process. The ultimate outcome is to enable easy, ubiquitous consumer access to high-quality content and programming across web, phone, set-top and online retail channels, the board said.

“Format proliferation is costing media organisations significantly in terms of storage, infrastructure and increasing complexity,” commented Joe Inzerillo, senior vice-president, Multimedia & Distribution for MLB Advanced Media. “Transcoding is universally a core issue for digital content providers, specifically at MLBAM where we’re approaching 20-30 formats per original asset with further growth a near certainty.

“Sun’s support of Sun MAB is essential in accelerating industry consensus around technologies and practices to remove critical bottlenecks in the transcoding process.”

The board said the move to high definition (HD), while supporting standard definition (SD) programming, online retail, mobile and broadband distribution, has strongly increased financial and operational pressures on content providers. Sun MAB has embarked on a video storage optimisation project to improve digital video storage capabilities.

Content identification is the third pillar of Sun MAB’s strategy. With enhanced content identification, fingerprinting and watermarking capabilities, content providers can improve their abilities to deter piracy, track content usage and monetise assets through personalised advertising. With this in mind, Sun MAB has begun a project to explore new revenue opportunities for content owners based on content identification technologies.

By Niall Byrne