Managed Broadcast Services Special Report: Knowledge Partner Interview with Red Bee Media

As part of Digital Studio's Knowledge Partnership for the special report on Managed Broadcast Services, we invited Houssam Al Khaled from Red Bee Media Middle East and Richard Cranefield, Head of Portfolio for Playout at Red Bee Media, to talk about the benefits of using managed services in broadcasting to manage success during this time of change and how the Red Bee Media way of working has led to innovations like the world’s first software only uncompressed playout deployment.
Digital Studio special report, RED BEE MEDIA, Managed services, Broadcast services, Broadcast strategy, Broadcast technology, Cloud playout, Cloud delivery, Service provider, Software defined playout, Software based playout, Media management, IP workflow, IP based distribution, Ip in broadcast


In an ever-changing media and television landscape, agility, flexibility and innovation are essential survival skills for broadcasters and media companies. Staying relevant means keeping up with changes in viewer behaviour as well as advances in the technologies available to deliver content, which often involves heavy investments and change management.

Companies like Red Bee Media are focusing their business model on addressing these challenges, delivering managed services to broadcasters, media companies and content providers, letting the customers focus on content curation and audience satisfaction, rather than the minutia of everyday operations. In addition, customers don’t have to make heavy investments following technology shifts, changing viewer behaviours and increased complexity. Instead they can benefit from managed services including relevant technology updates and new ways of working – effectively outsourcing agility, flexibility and innovation at the pace of the development of the media landscape.

DS: Are managed services the future for broadcasters and media companies? 

Houssam Al Khaled: There are certainly many good reasons to choose a managed services provider, especially if you as a broadcaster or media company want to increase your flexibility and make sure that you evolve in pace with the market. We are delivering and developing our services from a holistic end-to-end perspective where we are not only optimizing individual parts, but the whole workflow for playout operations for example. Handing over the operational responsibility to us, means that you as a broadcaster can focus on your content and your audience, and rest assured that operations are carried out on schedule. It also means that you as a broadcaster can save money by not having to invest in expensive technology stacks in order to future proof your operations. We provide the infrastructure and the workflow, letting our customers focus on their core business, being able to benefit from the flexibility, agility and cost-savings that come from not having to make large investments.

Houssam Al Khaled, Red Bee Media Middle East

DS: In what way can managed services provide flexibility and agility?

Al Khaled: First and foremost, it comes down to the ability to make changes to your offering quickly and without costly and time-consuming internal processes. Working with a managed services provider affords you reap the benefits of being able to add, remove or modify channels and services, without having to taking a risk on heavy investments or having to retool or retrain staff. This way you can work in agile and flexible way, updating your offering according to consumer needs and ultimately providing a viewer experience in line with the expectations of the audience. The flexibility and agility of our offering is also closely related to introducing technological innovations and new ways of working.

DS: Speaking of innovations, Red Bee Media recently announced the world’s first software only uncompressed playout deployment – how is this related to your ways of working?

Richard Cranefield: One of the things we are most proud of at Red Bee Media is our ability to innovate and develop services that give our customers a competitive edge. In today’s media and broadcasting landscape, moving to cloud and software-based environments is becoming a necessity in order to accommodate change quickly. But making this move not only requires investments in technology, but also in time, people and knowledge to get things right. It would be difficult for broadcasters who work alone to find the time and resources to make research investments like this, especially in a period where the evolution of media consumption is moving faster than ever. Drawing from the experience of working with major broadcasters around the world and combining this with on-going evaluation of the best solutions and combinations of technology, Red Bee Media can provide access to a level of innovation that is hard to achieve independently.

Richard Cranefield, Head of Portfolio for Playout at Red Bee Media

DS: What are the main challenges in moving towards IP and software only and why couldn’t a broadcaster create a solution like this themselves?

Cranefield: One of the main challenges is interoperability. First, everything needs to move to software, not just individual parts and the whole system needs to work together seamlessly. When we started to look at moving in to a fully software-based playout deployment, there were already substantial advances made by individual technology vendors, but there were significant challenges in getting the individual parts working together. As we move away from plugging appliances together with SDI, the responsibility for interoperability moves from the vendor to the broadcaster. Over the past two years we have been trying and testing different solutions to make sure we could achieve a playout deployment that not only was fully software-based but also could handle uncompressed feeds. Those are needed in order to meet the quality and latency requirements that our customers typically demand.

This level of innovation would be hard to achieve for an individual broadcaster. It requires a broad range of expertise and a lot of time, the cost of which is difficult to amortize over one set of channels. As technology options and integrations get more complex and a wider skill set is needed, few broadcasters are able to justify keeping innovation and development in-house while at the same time trying to reduce cost. This is why a managed services provider can add significant business value and be the ideal partner to manage success during change.

DS: With a fully software-based playout deployment in place, what can broadcasters expect to achieve?

Cranefield: With the use of software only technologies, private cloud deployments, and new operational processes we are really breaking new ground, but we are also focusing on fundamentally changing the customer experience. Our technology development enables a change in the way our customers buy from us, engage with us and get value from our services every day.

With our new platforms, customers can expect to get predictable rate card pricing for the types of service or change we would commonly supply, allowing them to make value-based decisions much quicker than they do today. Services can be added and delivered quicker. We are reducing the gap between making a buying decision and benefiting from that decision, from months to days or even hours.

Additionally, our service portals open up a new level of access and transparency to the media and data we hold on behalf of our customers giving them fast access to actionable insights, building trust, and allowing us and them to collaborate in the enrichment and delivery of their content to their audience.

DS: Finally, tell us about the Red Bee Media offering in the Middle East?

Al Khaled: We offer top-of-the-line playout and media management services from our facilities in Abu Dhabi and in partnership with Arabsat and twofour54 we have the capacity to quickly launch new channels and broadcast content across three continents. With our local presence and international network, customers in the Middle East can expect high-end managed services and benefit from global cutting-edge innovations that will enable them to focus on their core business and achieve success in a fast pace media landscape.

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