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SVG Sit-Down: AWS’s Julie Souza on the Cloud and AI in Broadcast-Content Creation, Distribution

By Ken Kerschbaumer, Editorial Director Tuesday, May 7, 2024 – 7:00 am

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The AWS booth at NAB 2024 was busy every day of the show, with a mix of customers, potential customers, and technology partners exploring how the cloud will impact the broadcast- and video-content–creation and –distribution business. AWS also had a big presence across multiple panel discussions, where such customers as the PGA TOUR, NHL, and WTA shared their experiences with AWS and the cloud. AWS Global Head of Sports Julie Souza sat down with SVG to discuss developments that are improving the capabilities of the cloud, the role of AI, and much more.

AWS’s Julie Souza: “The cloud enables you to innovate at a faster pace with more flexibility, and that’s good for fans everywhere.”

One of the hot topics at NAB 2024 is AI and generative AI. Where do you think generative AI fits into the cloud?
I think a lot of it is around operational efficiency. If you think about somebody doing research or a PA doing the hours and hours of research and pulling data from different places to put a preproduction packet together, that can be done with gen AI and let those people do more-creative things. There’s a time-saving and operational-efficiency story.

The other story I told was the use case we just did at the Sports Innovation Summit in Germany, where we demoed against live action. In our demo, the data feed came in, and we created AI-generated commentary and text. We did it in multiple languages using the vernacular of those languages, and we did it in different personas for each of those languages.

So we had a sports-broadcaster feed, which was like a professional calling a straight-down-the-middle professional sports broadcast. [The live-action demo] had one that they called pro, which was just more casual fan-based sort of stuff, and they had a very snippy one, which was more like a Twitter- or X-feed version. The cool thing about that is, it is a feed you’re never going to do in real life. This lets you take your content and make it germane and relevant and compelling in different markets to different demographics and different personalities at scale, which is super cool.

To touch on some of the pain points, those who haven’t done production in the cloud can’t get a sense of how much it will actually cost for their specific event in the cloud.
I was just with one of our engineers on that, and he has created a tool that calculates that for you. I think that live cloud production at scale is going to be far more cost-effective, and, as we start to collect more stories of productions in terms of what the ROI looks like, you’ll start to see the benefits. But I agree, we’re going to have to do a better job of telling that story and talking about the dollars and cents and all.

One thing is, with live production in the cloud, you’re saving time on setup, and there is the environmental impact and the carbon footprint. But —and this one is a bit squishier — you will be able to access a diversity of talent because you’re not [limited] to who can be in the truck on a certain night in a certain location. When we did the first test with the NHL in March 2023 at the Seattle Kraken in Climate Pledge Arena, the technical director for that show was in Madison, WI. When we interviewed him afterwards, he said the biggest difference was that he could have dinner with his family; he could produce a game and then be in his own bed 20 minutes later.

When I was at ESPN, there were not as many women [as men] on the production side because that was a hard lifestyle. I’d love to see more women staying in the production game. I’d like to see a diversity of talent there.

There are also a lot of other players in the ecosystem where there are additional licenses, like for graphics or replay, in play, but the AWS usage is minimal. We were doing something just the other day, and it was less than a hundred dollars of AWS spend to produce a two-hour event.

And your goal is to be agnostic for all those tools.
Yes, that’s part of the beauty. We can be flexible so that, if someone is working with Vizrt, they can have the same tools whether it’s in the cloud or on-prem. They can have the same control surface, and the resiliency is there.

Do you see production of alternative broadcasts as able to benefit from the cloud?
Yes, you have the flexibility to do that and proliferate alternate broadcasts across the board. You can have a feed for someone who is new to a sport, [which can be broken down and made] accessible. Or you can have a feed where they bring in all the stats like how fast a shot was. Look at what WBD did with the Tasmanian Devil as the referee. It goes back to the generative-AI example as, increasingly, these sports are becoming global. How do you talk to different audiences in ways that are going to resonate with them? And how do you bring new fans into Big City Greens? The cloud gives flexibility to maximize the value of the content. And that matters to producers as well as to the leagues and rightsholders themselves.

Do you see the cloud as democratizing sports-content creation for smaller leagues and rightsholders that may not be able to afford a large on-premises production?
Some of the stuff that’s done at the top trickles down, but it’s also an opportunity. I love the word democratization. It’s about letting some of these other leagues leapfrog and have the most versatile broadcast of their sport ever. They can give fans all these languages, all these flavors, all these personalities, as well as different graphics packages and different augmentation streams. They can become cutting-edge with the property, and that also drives up their value. The cloud enables you to innovate at a faster pace with more flexibility, and that’s good for fans everywhere.

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