M&E Journal: Resurrecting Your Zombie Content Archive

By Dan Keldsen, Director of Customer Innovation, Wasabi Technologies

In Hollywood and around the world, it’s the Golden Age of Online Video, with a seemingly endless appetite for new content brought on by the rise of streaming video on demand (SVOD) and screens of all sizes.

But what about the archives of the Golden Age of Film? Most video content prior to the 1980s remains quite literally locked in cold storage, hundreds of feet below ground. These assets are being protected against the elements and potential damage, but they are not making anyone (except the storage companies) any money. And they certainly are not helping studios feed their audiences what they so desperately want: More, more, more!

Studios are rightly pursuing creating new content to feed the market, extend franchises and take advantage of the latest “must have” actor, producer or director. The fact remains however, if you have a tomb-like archive of content that hasn’t seen the light of day in decades, you have a zombie archive problem.

Unlocking the value in your content vault

Like the zombies of nearly every film or series, this zombie archive is sitting there, mindlessly, decomposing, waiting for someone to provide the cure that will unlock the value trapped far below the earth.

What is it that will unlock that value? While the movie industry has rushed to cloud computing, the first wave, or Cloud 1.0, focused more on compute power for post-production work and streaming distribution out to screens of all sizes.

But the cost of Cloud 1.0 still made it prohibitively expensive to truly consider unleashing the value of a large archive, so the film canisters, LTO tapes and other types of media remained locked, waiting for their time, hungry for new eyes to see them.

That time is now. Call it Cloud 2.0

In my 2014 book, The Gen Z Effect, I describe “slingshotting” as one of the six forces unleashing the potential energy in any industry, and Cloud 2.0 is the slingshotting moment for M&E.

Cloud storage, in particular, is now reliable enough, fast enough, and cheap enough that a content owner can unearth its back catalog and get back to the business of making money from that content.

These aren’t simply historical artifacts that belong in museums as mere curiosities. This content is essentially brand new from the perspective of the hundreds of millions of people born since it was put in the vault.

At Wasabi, we call the storage layer of Cloud 2.0 “hot cloud storage.”

Why? Because now it’s no longer a matter of whether you can afford the cost of quickly resurrecting your old content. From now on, that content should NEVER have to be stuck back down into the depths of the earth. It can ALL be kept online, ready at a moment’s notice for licensing,

Some like it hot. Some vendors seem to believe some like it cold and dead. In an age in which studios no longer have to compromise to bring the most fantastical stories to life, why should the value of your old archive stay cold and dead when it doesn’t have to anymore?

This is truly the time when ALL video content, new or old, can be unleashed to a worldwide viewing audience of all ages.

Cloud storage + AI = monetization

Combine hot cloud storage with the rapidly improving and continuously dropping price curve of artificial intelligence and machine learning, and not only can content owners resurrect their content from cold, dead storage, but they can easily and affordably provide the metadata that unleashes the value for recommendation engines and search engines.

You may be thinking AI/ML isn’t ready yet. Your eyes may have just rolled back in your head at the mention of these techniques.

Yes, the potential has been vastly oversold, but for all practical purposes, AI/ML is good enough and cheap enough that you can now buy back one of your most precious assets of all… your time.

AI/ML have just about reached their slingshot moment as well.

Nearly 20 years ago I worked with automatic classification systems for text and audio (speech-to-text), and those systems worked at roughly 95 percent accuracy at the time. The nature of today’s algorithms mean that they are quite literally improving every single second they are running, and the state of the art a year ago is quite different from today.

No more tasking interns with tagging old reels with metadata. Digitize the video, run it through various classifiers and identifiers, and before you know it, your zombie content is restored back to its former life, ready for a second chance at stardom.

Of course, you can always wait. There’s plenty of money to be made with brand new content, assuming you can find studio space and sets that have any availability. Or you can start to rid yourself of your zombie archive, and not only unleash that value today, but also eliminate the ongoing cost, risk and sheer physical space that your old archive takes up today. And your content can effectively live forever, where it should, in an active catalog where a new audience awaits.

The choice is yours — de-archive the vaults and create unlimited opportunity for old content? Or leave it locked underground?


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