Media & Entertainment Cloud Ecosystem
This blog is one of a series of Media & Entertainment Cloud Ecosystem interviews.
Executive Interview with Ian McPherson, AWS, Head of North American Partnerships and Alliances–Media and Entertainment
While in-person events have been curtailed by COVID-19, innovation continues to advance in both tech and media & entertainment. I’ve been sitting down (virtually) with leaders of some of the leading AWS (Amazon Web Services) Partner Network (APN) Technology Partners involved in the M&E ecosystem—and their insights can offer a lens into the future of the industry.
Ian McPherson is a longtime marketing leader in the tech space. In his current role at AWS, he manages relationships with AWS’s ecosystem of ISV partners in the film, broadcast, and publishing worlds—including developing new partnerships, providing technical support for AWS service integration, and promoting cloud-based solutions for media workflows.
In this interview, Ian and I chat about the Media & Entertainment Cloud Ecosystem, exciting new opportunities for delivering better and more targeted content, and what he sees for the future of the Media & Entertainment industry.
Q: This is Joaquin Lippincott — CEO of Metal Toad, proud AWS consulting partner — here with Ian McPherson, who is the partner development lead for media and entertainment. It’s a big job. Ian, welcome.
A: Thanks, Joaquin. My role here is to lead our partnerships with our independent software vendors (ISVs) in the media and entertainment space. By and large, those are companies who have software that play a role in either creating, packaging, or delivering video.
Q: Absolutely. I wanted to make sure that we touch base and talk about the AWS Media and Entertainment Ecosystem. Let’s start out with your perspective on the state of M&E and the cloud.
A: I’ve been at AWS for about six years, and my role is to cultivate partnerships with software companies who play some role in the creation, packaging, and delivery of video. Five years ago, the big question was, “Can I safely store my backup copies in the cloud?” Fast forward to today: people are making full feature-length movies entirely in the cloud and building new platforms for customer engagement and video delivery, it’s been a huge transformation in the industry. It’s gone from an on-premises bias to a world where the cloud is part of the discussion. Companies also want to do more in a virtual presence, with remote workers, and they have more interest in creating customer-centric experiences.
Q: That’s amazing. Six years is an eon in AWS cloud time. Let’s talk terminology for a minute. There are two types of AWS partners: the independent software vendors (ISVs) and the consulting partners. Metal Toad is a consulting partner, and we work with a number of ISVs. Can you talk a bit about the role of the ISVs and the consulting partners in cloud adoption?
A: Our core business is providing the fundamental building blocks for moving large parts of IT to the cloud and enabling DevOps—making companies more agile, increasing the rate of innovation, and shortening the time it takes to get new products to market.
In the media and entertainment world, in the past and even today, so much of what’s built is bespoke technologies for video delivery. It’s possible to build solutions with our building blocks to address that, and our partners have the ability to provide specific and recognized outcomes in a workload or a workflow, which can greatly reduce the time it takes to get a service or solution stood up online. My job is to help those software companies understand how to leverage our tools to build effective cloud-based technologies and take advantage of everything from autoscaling and containers to the security practices and elasticity that we can provide to our customers.
That’s where the solution integrators, solution providers and consultants, like yourself, come in. They can see the tools AWS provides, the functions the ISV partners provide, and the requirements customers have for the system and customer engagement. Consulting partners bring it all together, optimize, and deliver a solution. That’s where Metal Toad comes in.
Q: I’m glad you mentioned autoscaling; I think it was first released five years ago. If you are working with an architecture that’s six years old, which doesn’t seem like a long time, it’s changed a tremendous amount! How about you personally—how did you get involved in AWS and the cloud space?
A: I spent a long time in Silicon Valley. I was a co-founder of a venture-backed startup and worked at other startups, so I have a real strong entrepreneurial streak. I’ve always wanted to be on the side of the disruptors.
The common thread for me is time to market. When you’re taking the next great leap—whether it’s analytics, IoT, telco experience, or networking experience—it’s no longer acceptable to be constrained by the time it takes to procure new technologies, build something, test it, redeploy, and iterate with the previous model. That’s especially true in the content world.
Procurement cycles, budgets, all of those things...when I was raising money as a startup, most of the money we raised went into capital equipment, to go out and then build it, we had the cost of the servers and the equipment necessary to deliver our first MVP. Now with AWS you have immediate access to always-on services that make it possible to only spend money on what you need to use. Everybody in their own environment can use AWS to procure the services and solutions they need, and integrate those rapidly to bring new products to market. That’s a tremendous transformation.
Q: Yes. I was on a call earlier today with a large entertainment brand, giving them the new pricing for the application we rebuilt for them—they were already on AWS but went to AWS on an optimized application—and they said, “Wait, hold on—this is a tenth of what we used to pay. Is that right?” And I said, “Yes, that’s actually right.” It’s hard to overstate the importance of the cloud. Looking ahead, what do you think the impact of the cloud will be on media and entertainment over the next three years?
A: It’s certainly going to increase innovation. We’ll continue to see companies be more nimble—that might mean standing up pop-channels for certain events and supporting things like some of the world's biggest sporting events with more content and more specific, narrow-interest content. That turns into better customer engagement; companies can produce content that really aligns to customers’ interests, and because we can cost-effectively produce it, we can justify smaller audiences. We can do that because we are able to serve audience with personalized content.
Q: There are some impressive technologies that will reduce the cost of production dramatically. It’s interesting to think about getting more content greenlit, like we’ve seen how additional access is provided on the internet. When that moves into the space of what a TV series or a movie costs, it creates opportunities for democratizing that are pretty exciting. Okay, I don’t want you to pick favorites, but which AWS cloud technologies are you personally most excited about?
A: I’m a little biased because of where I live—I’m living in the media and entertainment vertical! I’m really excited about the new managed live streaming solution, Amazon interactive video service (IVS), we’ve released. It’s one of the core engines we brought out of the Twitch acquisition—for interactive gaming experiences. The service does everything you need to make low-latency live video available to any viewer around the world and opens up opportunities for new customer experiences and building cohesion with audiences, whether that’s fans of a given show or a sports team. Having that experience coupled to the content that they’re consuming has all kinds of possibilities.
Going back to your previous question on the trends that I am seeing, virtualized production or remote production has been a real hot topic this year, and that will continue going forward. People looking for ways to avoid having major disruptions in their production cycles, while having people work from where they are and even source talent from markets where they’re not immediately present with their corporate offices. That’s an opportunity where we can support a faster production cycle; we won’t have to rely on the forced intervals that happen when you can’t get everybody in the same room.
Q: Thank you so much for joining us. If anybody has follow-up questions, what’s the best way to get in touch with you?
A: It was my pleasure. There’s plenty of information available about the Amazon Partner Network (APN) at aws.amazon.com/partners.
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