The rapid technical, social, and financial changes in the media industry are forcing all of us to re-examine our content supply chains.

A decade ago our supply chains used tape decks and baseband video to create programs for linear television. Today’s broadcast supply chain uses a growing number of incoming media assets to create hundreds of file-based products for dozens of outlets.

This case study examines Discovery Networks’ transition from a traditional linear supply chain to an automated media factory built in “the cloud.” It provides an overview of the tools Discovery uses to receive content from its suppliers using cloud-backed file transfer.

This case study also details the architecture and capabilities of the cloud-based media factory that Discovery has built together with our partner, SDVI. It discusses the key benefits of scalability and cost control within Discovery’s media factory and some of the media industry’s obstacles that prevent it from fully embracing cloud workflows. This case study shares many lessons we’ve learned since launching the platform in the third quarter of 2016.


The need for a new global supply chain.

In 2015, Discovery’s supply chains needed an overhaul. Many of our facilities still relied on tape-based workflows and physical media delivery. Some facilities had built their own file delivery workflows using file portals. Our US facility had standardied around file delivery on LTFS-formatted LTO data cartridges (Linear Tape File System / Linear Tape-Open), but other regions were hesitant to adopt that standard. LTO’s complexities taxed our smaller suppliers. These smaller suppliers often struggled to make deliverables that met our standards.

Our different regional facilities each maintained their own standards for file delivery, and some accepted a wide variety of incoming file types. Some wanted suppliers to deliver files that were broadcast-ready, while others wanted master-quality files in each program’s original frame rate. Facilities often changed their requirements to accommodate different suppliers, evaluating media files on a case by case basis. We wanted to build a global supply chain and a unified front door for content. These regional differences in standards and workflow were a major obstacle.

Discovery’s supply chain is large, varied, and global. We take delivery of over 12,000 hours of programming and elements from over 600 different suppliers each year. These suppliers are a mix of large production conglomerates, independent producers, and program distributors.

Suppliers might be major television studios with a staff dedicated to mastering and fulfilment. They might also be small producers with minimal experience of delivering files to broadcasters. Our business models depend on this supplier diversity, but the differences in technical capabilities and experience among suppliers meant that many deliveries arrived with technical errors. Suppliers often struggled to understand how their deliveries failed to meet our specifications and often couldn’t understand how to fix them.