Welcoming New Trends with Gung-ho

John Honeycutt, CTO, Discovery Communications
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Cloud in the Media and Entertainment Industry

Discovery Communications – in the media industry and beyond – has long been an early adopter of new technologies and innovative practices. In this spirit, Discovery began leveraging cloud-based solutions, specifically with respect to our core video offerings, long ago.

“Advanced connectivity of devices and services is revolutionizing many areas of our life, such as health and fitness, and we’ll continue to see its impact across sectors”

As CTO, I witness firsthand how we’re moving toward a more virtualized, software-defined world every day spanning collaboration functions and content. At Discovery, we’re utilizing cloud-based solutions in all parts of our business from production through distribution, and in the future we hope to see this reach scale as we bring our content to consumers. The benefits are numerous, especially as content consumption habits continue evolve and expand across platforms, but we must not lose sight of our commitment to security, encryption and data protection.

While the cloud won’t be the only solution, we believe that by owning a core infrastructure we can leverage it to scale quickly to take advantage of new opportunities.

Role of IoT in Media and Entertainment

Having just returned from CES 2015 and like the more than 150,000 attendees, it’s hard to ignore the power of this. For years, we’ve always gone to the Internet and became comfortable with actively seeking the information or content we were looking for.

Advanced connectivity of devices and services is revolutionizing many areas of our life, such as health and fitness, and we’ll continue to see its impact across sectors. It’s easy to imagine, for example, how real-time information on an athlete’s physiology during a sporting match could add a deeper dimension to our Eurosport programming for viewers.

As with the use of big data to deliver more customized media offerings, there is still reluctance among some consumers to embrace the power of IoT, but that sentiment is diminishing.

Harness Data the Right Way

There’s never been a better time to be in the content business, and data is transforming the way we bring programming to audiences around the world. Consumers are sharing countless data points about themselves and their behavior every second of every day, and the expectation is that this information will be used to enhance their experiences. With infinite media choices, better understanding what viewers want and serving them on a more personal level is an imperative.

At Discovery, this started with a focus on building our own data and building it at every turn. Data touches all areas of our business – from scheduling to marketing. One way we are leveraging the power of data is to pilot new ways of engaging with our audiences and, in particular our 'superfans' – extending the reach of our brands and shaping the content strategies of the future.

The challenge, ultimately, is to define your unique strategy and process for aggregating and harnessing its power, while still recognizing its limitations and combining the 'science' of data with the 'art' aspects of business.

Revamping Infrastructure to Support Digital Content

More and more companies and platforms are looking for quality content than ever before and, if you have it, you have to manage it – from creation to distribution. In today’s world, broadcast technology and business systems are intertwined, and we’ve structured our organization to adapt to that. With well over 300 broadcast feeds around the world and hundreds of content partners beyond linear television, the operational focus on content system, standards and processes is more imperative than ever.

As an example, last quarter we launched a new global tool, Discovery Hive that unifies our content repositories on a global basis and gives us the ability to have full visibility into our inventory and rights of assets – from the MythBusters franchise that airs globally to local productions. From a technology standpoint, the goal is to be platform agnostic and to enable efficiency and flexibility for our programmers and, ultimately, audiences. Discovery migrated to a file-focused infrastructure many years ago and we continue to upgrade our post-production operations and broadcast centers to anticipate and meet the needs of our audiences around the world.

Journey as a CIO

The role of CIO or, in my case, CTO, has certainly evolved over the years. At Discovery, my remit spans the consolidated IT, media technology, production and operations functions globally. Information and broadcast technology, as I alluded to earlier, are no longer isolated disciplines.

Having a solid, long-term technology strategy and roadmap requires a strong technology background, but also a keen understanding of media landscape and consumer trends. Just as technology is the driving force behind many aspects of our personal lives and connections, it also is the backbone that enables each of our organizations – from connectivity between colleagues and offices that span the continents to delivering new products or content to consumers.

Lessons from CIOs

The biggest lesson I can share is to listen to your 'customers' inside your organization. The solutions may not always be clear, and many times that is because we are not hearing the question. When we engage fully, technology can truly enable your organization and its goals.

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