BMS in the Cloud
Smaller broadcasters can now enjoy the systems the ‘big-boys’ use for better managing their broadcast business metadata and workflows at an affordable monthly cost. But is the price the only thing that should be considered? DS Media consultant David Shapiro discusses Broadcast Management Systems in the Cloud
In today’s broadcasting environment, the management of metadata and workflows is becoming more and more complex. For this reason we see more and more broadcasters moving away from their legacy IT systems to an integrated solution, one that manages all of their business information in one central dataset, across all departments. This information can include programming content, broadcasting contracts and rights, media management, airtime sales, promotion management, and all of this will come together in the long-term schedule and playlist schedule.
These integrated solutions come in many shapes and sizes – from systems that cater for the small to medium-sized broadcaster, usually offering an attractive monthly payment for the entire package, to systems designed and built explicitly for the larger broadcaster and networks. The smaller systems, although comprehensive, naturally contain limited functionality as compared to their larger counterparts, however they are able to offer the smaller broadcaster a good end-to-end solution, with minimal customisation required.
In the past, the vendors offering high-end solutions would not have even pitched for a project with a smaller budget, leaving those small-to-medium broadcasters to the smaller solution providers. In the process, some of these ‘smaller’ players have gradually increased in terms of size and capabilities, and are now taking a considerable bite out of the higher end of the market. This has forced the bigger players to reconsider their marketing strategies. Some now offer their powerful, feature-rich solutions to the low-end of the market that until now did not have the resources to benefit from these types of solutions, and this is being done by making full use of SaaS and cloud-based solutions.
Pro and Cons
So smaller broadcasters can now enjoy the systems, once exclusive to the ‘big-boys’, for better managing their broadcast business metadata and workflows at an affordable monthly cost. But apart from price, what are the other benefits of using such a service?
With SaaS systems, no hardware installation is required on the client-side, and all users can work off their standard PCs. This means considerable CAPEX savings, and depending on the number of users, there may also savings on operating expenditures as well. In addition, there is no need for costly hardware upgrades and maintenance.
After a short training stage and configuration process, the system can be ready for use in minimal time, and there are no lengthy implementation stages.
While using the system, you will be entitled to a standard SLA agreement, without having to worry about renewals and payments. This will all fall under the monthly fee.
When changes are made to the system, even if commissioned by a different client, those changes and enhancements will most probably also be made generally available without any additional costs.
If the system is a true cloud-based system, this should allow access from anywhere and on multiple devices, including all mobile devices, provided an internet connection is available. Cloud-based services offer all the benefits of the system while away from the office. This will also enable management to receive up-to-the-minute information and reports, regardless of where they are.
On the other side, there are some points that need to be carefully considered before deciding to undertake a SaaS agreement.
Performance - Regardless of how good your Internet infrastructre is, the performance of a cloud based system is always going to be slower (even slightly) than a locally based system. In some cases this may not be an issue, but it should be carefully taken into consideration. Also bear in mind, as like all cloud based systems, any glitches to your internet connection is going to have an immediate impact of the system, and even prevent users from carrying out their day to day tasks and even disrupt the creation of a playlist file in extreme cases.
The solution, in most cases, will be an out-of-the-box solution, with the vendor being very reluctant to make any major changes. However, it would be fair to say that the requirements from a smaller broadcaster will be greatly covered by these systems, with minimal customization required. For larger broadcasters, the gap between requirements and functionality may present more of an issue.
Regardless of the size of the organisation, integration with third-party systems and reports will almost always need to be tailor-made or at least fine-tuned, but this should not affect the core product and the vendor can be commissioned to develop the necessary customisations.
As the business grows, so too will the functional requirements. This is where difficulties may begin in getting the hosted solution to do what is needed. In addition, the number of users is also likely to grow, increasing the monthly payment to the vendor. These extra costs need to be carefully considered upfront.
Not only is the software hosted, but the database and data will be too. This means that it is very unlikely that a connection directly to the database for reporting, BI and other purposes will be possible. Although there are solutions that allow the reception of regular data updates (through mirroring, creation of views, etc), one must weigh up how sufficient these solutions will be in terms of supporting all business needs, and must therefore be carefully considered. In addition, any agreement you sign with a vendor must include your full right to receive all data in the event that you decide, for whatever reason, to move to a different solution.
As already mentioned, a true cloud-based solution gives the user great flexibility when it comes to mobility. However, a word of caution – not all systems that claim to be ‘Cloud-Based’ are indeed that, and may require an installed client, such as Citrix, in order to be able to access the system.