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Why now is the perfect time for IMF

We all want everything, everywhere at all times – from classics to the cutting edge. Yet this means that providers need to have masses of archived content that can be tapped at any time. And who knows what form and formats this archive is in? Dan Goman, CEO of Ownzones, argues why the interoperable master format (IMF) will help content creators cater effectively to these requirements.

As demand for streaming continues to skyrocket, long-time competitors like HBO, AMC and Showtime are on the hunt for new ways to bring once-popular shows and films back to life for audiences. The only problem is these networks have years of archived content, and converting and storing all of that into streamable formats costs massive amounts of time and money.

Moving past the problem

Global distribution necessitates taking into account a multitude of factors that vastly increase the number of files needed that account for things like cultural differences or the language of in-video text. With IMF, however, such problems may soon become a thing of the past.

Although IMF has been around since 2011, the rise of streaming is one reason why content creators and distributors are starting to adopt this new, improved format. More than half of all American households (55%) have signed up for at least one streaming service. Among the most popular options is Netflix, which has now amassed more than 135 million users.

Rather than putting together a unique media file for each audience and technical specification, a content owner can leverage IMF to develop a single master file package that can be adapted easily to any need. Within that master package exists several individual components – such as audio, subtitles and packaging data – that are combined to create a composition playlist (CPL). As a result, content distributors who are interested in reaching different audiences can make changes to components without altering the original master file. For example, if two markets speak different languages, IMF enables distributors to switch specific elements within the CPL, such as subtitles. There’s no need to store two separate films for each audience.

Reaping the rewards

Content owners around the world are witnessing a rapid, industry-wide shift toward IMF. Those looking to make the most of this up and coming format would be wise to adopt cloud-native video distribution platforms that enable IMF. From offering unmatched flexibility to slashing storage costs, such platforms deliver enough benefits to significantly improve a business’s bottom line. The advantages are clear:

Fewer errors: Content creators and distributors aren’t afforded much margin for error. In fact, enough missteps can cause a broadcaster to start the search for new partners and place creators at risk of losing a potential channel to new audiences. The good news is that a cloud-native IMF solution enables owners to take human error out of the equation. By following IMF’s specifications, files are easily automated and confirmed for delivery, reducing human error. Better yet, IMF also opens the door for automation for downstream file transcoding.

Flexible versioning: Whether it’s swapping out scenes from a movie due to differences in cultural standards or adding in subtitles for different languages, versioning is all but inevitable. But while content creators will always need to devote time and money toward versioning, it promises to be significantly less with IMF. Incremental changes – such as compliance edits or localisations – as well as redeliveries can be made through IMF at just a fraction of the cost. Perhaps even more importantly, an increase in efficiency can complement any cost savings that accompany flexible versioning.

Reduced costs: File storage doesn’t come cheap. Luckily, content owners and distributors may not need as much of it once IMF is implemented. If, for example, there are 100,000 movie files in a content library, content owners and distributors can use IMF to shrink the size of such a library to just 10,000 files. Instead of dedicating a significant portion of their budget toward storing files, owners and distributors have the opportunity to spend those cost savings elsewhere. The 10,000 master files can also be turned into any flat format the content owner or distributor needs to deliver, thereby setting the stage for even greater savings and flexibility.

With the ever-increasing need to adapt content libraries to new distribution points – including emerging platforms or geographic markets – leveraging IMF becomes a huge competitive advantage. By eliminating many of the barriers that prevent owners and distributors from easily reaching new audiences – such as file storage costs and inefficient versioning processes – IMF has the potential to change the entertainment industry.

It’s time for content owners and distributors to follow in the footsteps of big name brands like Netflix, Disney and Sony by bringing IMF into the fold. After all, a new era of entertainment is upon us. Cable and satellite programming that was once standard in seemingly every home is giving way to streaming services that provide consumers with the power to watch what they want, when they want. The sooner owners and distributors take action, the better chance they have of cashing in on the cord-cutting revolution.

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