Technology

Viacom18 & Tata Comm go cloud surfing

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MUMBAI: In the earlier days when telephones, internet and aeroplanes did not exist, messages were sent manually across countries through messengers. Today we watch the telecast of live matches at the same time globally. But somehow, broadcasters were caught in a time warp when it came to delivering the content syndicated to TV or VOD or online clients worldwide. The norm was to either send a tape to the broadcast customer whichever part of the world it was located or send out the show‘s episodes on a hard disk or via web-based ftp transfers online.

No more. Telco services provider Tata Communications in partnership with Harmonics has developed what is being claimed as the world’s first cloud based broadcast quality video transcoding and delivery network. Viewers now have the choice to watch their favourite programs from other countries at the same time or a few minutes after the original playback without having to resort to piracy. What gets better for them is that they get broadcast quality videos, close enough to HD (high definition) quality rather than low resolution ones across a variety of platforms. This service is not restricted to just broadcasters but also production houses.

How does it happen?

Customers can upload their content to Tata Comm‘s portal while mentioning the device (iphones, tablets etc) for which they want it to be transcoded. The service picks it up and takes it to the cloud where the transcoding takes place after which it is either pushed back to the client or to wherever it has been asked to be sent to. A secure file acceleration method ensures safe delivery over the internet, says Tata Communications.

Where huge amounts of data have to be archived, Tata Communications, is open to doing the job for clients after receiving a detailed document, along with the hard disk containing the data. A client may only be able to do one transcode at a time but Tata Communications can have multiple transcoding devices for speedy delivery with its 1gbps port.

Tata Communications business

head Sameer Kanse 

says that the transcoded video

is comparable to near HD quality

Tata Communications says its cloud service helps reduce piracy. Viewers resort to piracy as the content is not available at the time they want to consume it legally and because the content is transported manually.

With the Tata Communications service, shows can be simulcast or near simulcast because of quick delivery via the cloud and in the process this tends to reduce piracy, says Tata Communications business head Sameer Kanse. In this way the brand is protected, the copy is of good quality and the owners can get advertising as well as increased revenue.

“They (clients) can either spend a lot of time protecting their content. Or they can actually make their content available before the pirates,” adds Kanse.

On whether the system can be hacked , he says that it is much more difficult to pry open a secure network than steal a hard disk.

He maintains that the transcoded video needn‘t be of the exact same quality as it was shot but it is comparable to near HD quality. “The service can effectively convert from any video format to any other video format – including between all common SD (standard definition) and HD formats, although its unique strength lies in its ability to handle professional grade broadcast video standards,” he says.

What about time?

By opting for this service broadcasters don’t have to undergo the Herculean task of setting up the hardware, maintaining and upgrading it as well as appoint people to handle it. This can be outsourced thus reducing time losses.

IndiaCast, a joint venture between Viacom 18 and TV18 for distribution of its channels and content, has already started using the service for simulcast of its shows such as Bani, Sasural Simar ka and Na Bole Tum from Colors in Pakistan. IndiaCast COO Gaurav Gandhi says that this has cut down the time needed for this from three hours to an hour apart from that needed for file conversion to the requisite format, thanks to Tata Communications.

With the rapid evolution of the internet it has become necessary to make content ready in multiple formats in a quick span of time. This service will take off a big burden from broadcasters‘ shoulders. “We are saying you (broadcasters) focus on creativity and we will focus on our work,” reiterates Kanse.

IndiaCast COO Gaurav Gandhi is

looking at using cloud based services 

for simultaneous broadcast in other

markets as well

Tata Communications also provides a ‘live’ service to its customers, if asked for, which would allow seamless transmission of live content across different countries and operators. Without naming the broadcaster Kanse says that one of the ‘key’ broadcasters that recently launched on its own is taking its live service from them.

Customers opting for the service normally ‘pay as they go’ wherein a higher commitment is priced higher and vice versa. Another aspect of pricing is the format of content in which it is received. Cost for converting tapes is higher than hard disks.

Curbing Piracy

Piracy of Colors by cable operators in other territories was one of the main reasons why Viacom18 chose to use this cloud based service. “We are looking to use the cloud based service actively for certain kind of programming of ours that has appeal/demand for simultaneous broadcast in other markets as well,” points out Gaurav Gandhi.

The transcoding is currently taking place in Tata Communications Mumbai and London centres and can be sent across the globe. As far as numbers are concerned, Kanse says that he couldn’t share numbers but the increase in revenue would be ‘significant’ as there isn’t any other company providing similar services which is the need of the hour.

Kanse was wary of revealing any client names apart from Viacom18, but apparently quite a few producers and broadcasters have taken a shine to the Tata Communications cloud based service.

Clearly, that should put him up in the clouds.

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