Voting for (technical) independence

According to Time Magazine, more than half the world’s population will go to the polls in 2024. The fact that the UK’s election also coincides with Independence Day presented an irresistible opportunity for Blue Lucy’s chief strategy officer, Jonathan Lunness, to share some thoughts around change, independence and choosing the technology you entrust with your media workflows:

Over the last few months, I’ve attended a series of industry events – from MPTS to Amagi’s AI conference, the DPP media supply chain festival and Henry Stewart’s DAM Europe 2024 conference – and sat through more than my fair share of product and customer presentations.  It’s been interesting to hear a broad range of customers talking about all the changes their organisations are undergoing: migrating to the cloud, launching FAST channels, growing audience share and those other important shares – the ones that relate to their stock price.  If there’s one thing COVID taught us, it’s that we don’t know what’s around the corner –what’s right for today’s situation isn’t necessarily going to be best option for the future. As an example, we collect metrics on how many times our customers change or tweak a workflow in BLAM. Over the course of delivering millions of assets, they also make hundreds of iterative changes to their workflows. And these changes aren’t to correct errors in the system – they’re in response to constantly changing requirements as they deliver new formats to new platforms. Fortunately, BLAM is a low-code/no-code orchestration engine, so it’s easy to make these changes. But imagine if each change meant filling in a change request, coding or scripting the new workflow and testing each iteration before deploying it…oh, and maintaining that code, at your cost, for the lifetime of the platform. Long deployment cycles, inflexible solutions, and changing customer requirements are not a recipe for success.

Another observation from attending these events is just how diverse the various customer approaches can be. Some are looking to support hybrid operation, others for variations in cloud provider, but everyone is looking for a mix of integrations with a diverse range of technology vendors that meet their unique business needs. Clearly there’s no point adopting a new MAM or Content Supply Chain solution if it means giving up your independence of choice – it’s not flexible if you’re locked into certain vendors because of walled garden ecosystems. That off-the-peg MAM with simple functions and $100 dollar per month seat pricing might meet your base requirements on day one, but what happens if the project is a success, and you want the whole company on the platform? Equally, is that vendor really going to be interested in building the 3rd party integrations and custom workflows you will inevitably need?

Walled gardens, it seems, are not just on the ground and some solutions are also tied to specific cloud vendors. An interesting aspect of attending such a range of events was to listen to international customers, and how the engagement and economics of cloud vendor choice differed between geographic regions. Clearly, in not following the herd, these customers are seeing different benefits to others. Ensuring your choice of MAM is independent i.e. not dependent on a single cloud vendor seems like sound advice.

As we head to the polls this year, it’s important to remember that all candidates are telling us what we want to hear. We need to do our own research, read those manifestos, and choose the right party for our own specific needs. In choosing a MAM or Content Supply Chain solution you should take similar precautions. Unlike a government however, with the right platform you can easily change direction mid-term and cope with unexpected global events – without running up the national debt. Choose wisely.

Want to find out more about BLAM?  Get in touch with our team to book a demo.

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It’s time to hit refresh on the product roadmap

We’re always being asked about our roadmap, when really what most people want to know is what features or integrations we’ve got planned.  Continue reading →
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Post NAB Thoughts

April 2024: It’s been a week, and we’ve all now seen everyone’s takeaways on the trends that emerged at NAB. Here at Blue Lucy Towers we like to do things differently, so here are 6 ways in which we’re bucking the trends and defying the key findings which were shared at the show.

“The market is tough”

This was the opening statement both at Devoncroft Partners’ Executive Summit and again at IABM’s State of the Industry Briefing. We agree. It is tough out there, but vendors who are focussed on solving real problems will thrive, and help their customers do the same. 2023 was tough for us too, but we grew our customer base by 25%.

“Vendors are overbuilding their applications”

We heard this a lot at the sessions we attended. Don’t get us wrong. What we do is clever, and our customers can really get down in the weeds configuring, scripting, and designing complex workflows if they want. But our low-code no-code approach means that users of all skill levels can quickly build operational workflows to integrate media systems and rapidly deliver business value.

“File delivery is too expensive and too slow”

Major M&E players confirmed the relentless pressure to get more files delivered faster, cheaper and at better quality. This is tough when usage is metered, but Blue Lucy’s solution is offered at a fixed monthly cost regardless of throughput. After all, that’s how our customers sell their subscriptions. And with no markup on supply chain integrations, they can choose the vendors that best fit their business needs, confident in the knowledge they’re not paying a platform tax to use them.

“Too many workflows involve ‘people doing stuff’”

It’s true. And that’s why automating repetitive tasks to speed things up and reduce errors is fundamental to what we do. AI has an important role to play, but we also know how some processes will always need the personal touch. Our BLAM platform has a task-management orchestration capability so that essential manual work can be prioritised and materials presented to users, allowing more time to dedicate to creativity.

“Media Orchestration and MAM are still considered separate functions”

It’s 2024! As far as we’re concerned metadata, media management and orchestration are inextricably linked functions in a joined-up operation. Our clients want to keep control of their assets throughout and beyond any delivery process. Our platform are designed to allow exactly that.

“The industry is spawning more and more platforms and enterprise buses”

100% agree. Here in the UK we often question why you can wait ages for a bus, then they all come at once. With so many vendors claiming to have an Enterprise Service Bus, we’re definitely at the point of needing an intelligent solution to manage all of these integrations. And guess what? We’ve got one – we provide and champion open integrations, not walled gardens.

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Cloud – Ground – Canal: Blue Lucy at IBC 2023

I was quite pleased to be asked recently by a Canadian colleague what our “theme” would be for the upcoming IBC. For me, theme reflects the ethos of the Blue Lucy approach to trade shows, we don’t tend to talk about product features or the specific capabilities in our roadmap.

Development of features and connectors is just something we do in pursuit of delivering customer value. If an operator needs a connector to a system or service, we will build it into a microservice BLidget – which we’ve been producing at a rate of two a week for five-years.  Listing 450+ BLidgets or detailing our CORE or UI functions in a tradeshow press-release doesn’t convey the value of our BLAM platform or approach.  We prefer to showcase business-focused solutions, which tend to follow a theme that relates to industry business needs at that time.

Forecasting Cloud

Some will remember our cloud stand at IBC 2018 – it was very popular with the crowd, particularly after the show closed.  At that time, we were about 18-months into the development of BLAM-3 and around a year out from the completion of the first customer implementations with PLAZA Media and Off the Fence.  Our 2018 IBC cloud stand was a little tongue-in-cheek, highlighting the paradox of demonstrating a cloud-based platform from a dark hall in the Rai. Then (three years on from AWS’s acquisition of Elemental) the media and broadcast industry was finally beginning to appreciate the functional power and flexibility of cloud services.  The trend – and our IBC 2018 theme – was very much about “cloud migration” which we thought was inexorable, hence the stand design – the cloud is now, and Blue Lucy is there, ready.

But the BLAM platform was actually designed to be completely infrastructure agnostic – so it can be deployed in any cloud, or on-prem, infrastructure.  This is a core tenet of the architecture, although we forecast that the vast majority of deployments would run in cloud infrastructure.  Five years on, we are surprised as to how deployments have manifested.

A Mixed Reality

Eighty percent of our customer base is operating cloud-ground “hybrid” BLAMs.  These systems tend to have the core services of the databases and the application interface together with one or more workflow runners (the microservice orchestrators) running in cloud infrastructure, typically provisioned by Blue Lucy as a managed service.  In addition, workflow runners are deployed on-prem’ at the operator facility.  These manage on-prem storage, LTO libraries and other resources such as rights management systems, transcoders, file-based QC tools, edit systems (Avid and Adobe) as well as baseband recording and playout systems.

In hindsight, it was unwise for the industry to assume that the entire production and distribution capability would move to the cloud over a few short years. In many cases, it just doesn’t make sense: operators do not wish to move away from on-prem tools that are providing business value, and that are still being amortised.  For distributors, the concept of forklifting their inventory, which may extend to many petabytes, to cloud storage doesn’t make economic sense. Using the cloud for distribution, particularly to FAST or OTT platforms is very common and workflows that utilise cloud services are extremely efficient. BLAM operators are using these pipelines for content distribution to fulfil content sales – this model of ‘leaving material where it is until it’s needed or can be monetised’ – is common.  Equally, we have a number of customers who operate with all browse material in cloud storage, but delivery is fulfilled from cloud or ground – based on which is the most cost-effective overall. Naturally that logic is built into the BLAM workflows.

IBC Theme

There are many and varied reasons why media operators cannot, or do not want to go all in for the cloud or why they wish to control the migration. So, it is ground-cloud, hybrid workflows which will form the basis of our theme for IBC2023 where we’ll showcase how Blue Lucy customers are harmonising on-prem systems and cloud services and applications to create highly efficient and cost-effective media workflows with BLAM. In short, we’ll be bringing the cloud to earth at IBC2023.

I plan to revisit this topic in more detail in the run up to the event but in the meantime do make an appointment to meet with us at the show. We are keen to talk on the basis of operational outcomes, we can work out the most cost-effective place to run the workload later, and even change our mind.  We are at stand 6.C29.

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Media Companies are now paying for RFP’s

– they just haven’t noticed, yet Continue reading →
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Next-Gen Tech Leader Insights: Rob O’Brien

As head of international technology at ITV Studios, Rob O’Brien is always on the lookout for new technology that can allow the company to work more flexibly and develop new workflows. Continue reading →
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Next-Gen Tech Leader Insights: Richard Clarke

As head of content operations at global distributor Banijay Rights, Richard Clarke knows the importance of effective media operations management. Continue reading →
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Six Steps to Successful Service Delivery

A project management centric view of the BLAM implementation at A+E Networks UK Continue reading →
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The Media Supply Chain is not enough

With another Media Supply Chain Festival approaching we ask whether this catchy term is serving the needs or wants of the industry. Continue reading →
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The Cloud is not Enough

Operators should ensure that ‘cloud native’ doesn’t mean cloud dependant when selecting management tools. Continue reading →
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