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Telecom Makeover: Media and entertainment companies make increasing use of IT

November 30, 2012
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With over 600 existing channels, 2,500 regional and national newspapers, and 1,500 films being made every year, the Indian media and entertainment industry has grown by leaps and bounds. According to industry analysts, the rapid development witnessed in this space has been backed by strong consumption in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, and continuous growth in regional media as well as new media businesses.

As per the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), the Indian media and entertainment space has made its presence felt overseas as well, owing to which several global production houses and business conglomerates are now venturing into the country. For instance, early this year, the Walt Disney Company picked up a controlling stake in UTV Software Communications through a delisting offer. This deal, according to the IBEF, drove foreign direct investment in the sector, which stood at Rs 32.64 billion during 2011-12, 72 per cent higher than the Rs 18.87 billion recorded in 2010-11. Overall, the industry is expected to register a compound annual growth rate of 15 per cent to reach Rs 1.457 trillion by 2016.

Telecom is being leveraged as a strategic tool by companies in the space to capitalise on the business opportunities that this growth presents. With stable connectivity, cost containment and zero downtime emerging as the keywords in the media and entertainment business today, a secure, reliable and efficient telecommunications network is a must-have for any company operating in this space.

Moreover, real-time remote communication has become vital as most companies in this segment operate a widespread network with multiple points of presence (PoPs). To overcome the challenge of maintaining high network uptime, such players usually opt for multiple mediums of connectivity. For instance, multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) and VoIP are widely used mediums in such organisations. MPLS provides high network uptime by offering dual PoPs in various cities, a differentiated quality of service for voice and data traffic, and bandwidth on demand to instantly increase bandwidth as per requirement. Meanwhile, with regard to voice services, VoIP is increasingly replacing the traditional time division multiplexing technology. Apart from telecom, certain IT applications such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM) and automation software are also being used extensively in the segment.

International connectivity is crucial for players in this space as most of them have offices overseas. International private leased circuit (IPLC), MPLS, internet protocol-virtual private network (IP-VPN) and ISDN are popular connectivity mediums that serve this purpose as they are not only cost effective but also ensure minimum downtime in a secure and flexible manner.

For day-to-day operations, companies in the media and entertainment space opt for a mix of communications infrastructure. Mediums such as electronic private automatic branch exchange, leased lines and primary rate interface for voice communications are used widely. Similarly, Ethernet or gigabit Ethernet-based local area network (LAN) and leased lines for data communications, Wi-Fi LAN and ISDN for audio/videoconferencing and VPNs for back-up connectivity between different branches have also caught on.

Network redundancy remains a key concern for such companies. Most players in this vertical have opted for multiple backup mediums like co-location servers and security audits. However, companies in this space still face several issues and concerns with respect to their telecom infrastructure. As the respondent from Dharma Productions says, “The after-sales service we are getting from our service provider has huge scope for improvement. The operator does not respond in time, which results in delays at our end and, thereby, impacts business.”

According to industry analysts, players will focus on structural cost reductions over the next 12-18 months. Also, technologies and services such as telepresence, unified messaging (in combination with 3G and Wi-Max), SAP, and server and desktop virtualisation will be adopted in a big way by such companies.

Clearly, the success of the media and entertainment industry depends on its IT and telecom infrastructure. Companies are stepping up their investments to upgrade their telecom infrastructure, which will translate into lower downtime, better productivity and increased efficiency. Therefore, the challenge before them is to maintain stable telecom connectivity while gearing up for rapid network expansion.

tele.net undertook a survey amongst companies in the media and entertainment segment to assess their telecom requirements and solutions, key concerns and future requirements.

The following questions were asked in the survey:

• What are the organisation’s key technology requirements?

• What mix of service providers and vendors is used?

• What are the biggest concerns with respect to telecom infrastructure?

• What are some of the mobility and enterprise applications that the organisation has implemented?

• Which network security tools has the organisation implemented?

• What redundancy tools are being utilised by the organisation?

• Which new product or service holds the most interest or relevance for the organisation?

Key technology requirements

According to the results of the survey, telecom is being leveraged as a strategic business tool by companies in the media and entertainment segment to ensure network agility; optimise content delivery, distribution workflow and processes; aggregate vital data for research; manage subscription and reporting; and keep abreast of changing market requirements as well as customer preferences.

The most widely used technologies in this segment are leased lines, the internet, ISDN lines, MPLS, VPN, Wi-Max, Wi-Fi, very small aperture terminals (VSATs), IPLC, internet/frame relays, DSL,

metro Ethernet, optic fibre connectivity and Centrex.

Typically, the communications set-up in media and entertainment companies consists of multiple telecom platforms, each having a specific function. Wireless technologies are used for last mile connectivity.

For example, Eros International’s telecom network comprises leased lines, IPLCs, ISDNs, ATM/frame relays, the internet and MPLS. Leased lines permit the company to customise its broadband package by offering a variety of bandwidths to choose from. It further facilitates branch office connectivity and supports data-intensive applications and network traffic, given the load of data and information the entertainment major deals with on a daily basis. Similarly, ISDN provides high download speeds and support for continuous streaming of audio and video files. It also helps transmit voice, data and video on a single line, enabling several officials to use the internet at the same time without loss in speed or data. For last mile connectivity, the company uses DSL and metro Ethernet connectivity along with Wi-Fi technology.

Meanwhile, The Pioneer uses leased lines, VPNs and the internet for its day-to-day business. “The biggest advantage of VPN is that it helps communicate in a secure and reliable manner, with the internet serving as a medium to connect to the company’s private LAN. Also, scalability is a major advantage that VPNs have over leased lines. A VPN network can be easily extended to accommodate more users and various locations” says the company respondent.

Deccan Chronicle Holdings Limited (DCHL) also uses VPNs sourced from Reliance Communications (RCOM). For last mile connectivity, the newspaper company uses Wi-Max.

Reliance Broadcast Network Limited (RBNL) was the only respondent that uses VSATs as part of its communications infrastructure, apart from leased lines and ISDN lines. This set-up is used to transmit audio broadcasts from the studio to the transmitter. To connect its various broadcasting

stations spread across the country, the broadcasting company uses leased lines and VPNs in a point-to-point connectivity pattern. This provides easy access to the communications network for all employees.

Apart from using leased lines and ISDN lines, Deccan Herald’s Bengaluru office has been fully automated. Also, all district correspondents are connected to each other via the I-Net facility.

Percept Limited uses leased lines as well as ISDN lines. The company also uses its website as a medium to reach out to its audience and provide a holistic view of its product portfolio, recent activities, etc. To connect to the internet, the entertainment player opted for DSL and a Wi-Fi set-up.

Several IT tools are also used by companies in this vertical. For example, Deccan Herald uses ERP and CRM. ERP allows seamless flow of data and information across the company, thereby integrating all critical processes on a single platform. Moreover, this business support system helps maintain an integrated database for operations related to manufacturing, supply chain management, financials, projects, human resources and CRM.

RBNL primarily uses two types of software for its day-to-day operations. It uses a software platform to ensure round-the-clock availability, and storage of cue sheets, daily logs and song databases, etc.

The broadcasting major also uses an automation software to operate and keep track of all the content being used by the studio on a particular day. The software makes and supports the log with all the radio spots, songs to be broadcast and other audio links. It also supports an entire audio database and plays each audio track available in the log as per the station’s requirement.

At Business Standard, software applications such as ERP and Lotus Domino were implemented in cluster mode across two hubs. This helped balance the load on the telecom infrastructure and evenly distribute various tasks across the system. However, ERP, which supports various modules pertaining to functions such as human resource information system, finance, media-specific modules like ad booking, daily sales reports and circulation, posed a challenge for remote users. This was resolved by deploying MPLS links and terminal servers for ensuring faster access. The online ad-booking module and pagination software required more bandwidth, which was managed through routers, unified threat management and rigorous monitoring of network utilisation.

Service providers and vendors

Media and entertainment companies use a mix of service providers such as Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, Reliance Communications, Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited, and Bharti Airtel and vendors like Tata Communications, Sify Technologies, Hughes Communications India Limited, Wipro, IBM, Oracle, Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent.

Issues and concerns

Inadequate redundancy, increasing technology costs, lack of qualified IT staff, ensuring remote connectivity, keeping pace with technology advancements and network downtime are the major concerns faced by media and entertainment companies.

For Eros International, the increasing cost of technology and lack of qualified IT staff were the major issues. On the other hand, for Business Standard high cost of telecom equipment, keeping pace with rapid technology advances and ensuring connectivity for its remote users were key concerns. “With technological developments in the telecom sector and the need for faster connectivity, remote access to servers poses a huge challenge in terms of network security. This was managed by implementing selective security solutions at the gateway and client levels. However, it requires regular monitoring and infrastructure upgrades, which can be a costly proposition,” says the company official.

For Percept Limited, identifying an appropriate operator was a major issue. “We required a service provider with end-to-end cost-effective communication solutions,” says the respondent.

Mobile and enterprise applications

A wide range of enterprise applications are being used by this vertical, including audio-, web- and videoconferencing, email, web hosting, instant messaging, toll-free services and VoIP.

In terms of mobile applications, media and entertainment majors use mobile email, mobile data connectivity, corporate intranet, conferencing solutions, push alerts, mobile access to supply chain management and CRM, and vehicle tracking.

For on-the-go connectivity, executives at Deccan Herald use mobile email, mobile data connectivity and corporate intranet. Among several benefits, corporate intranet provides a cheap, flexible and user-friendly medium. It has also helped improve information sharing and coordination across the organisation and provided employees access to all information through a simple web interface.

Network redundancy

For network backup, companies in this vertical use a host of telecom platforms. The most widely used mediums include co-location services, disaster recovery sites, firewalls, security audits, storage area network systems and security operation control centres.

Network security

As per the results of the survey, companies in this vertical use several platforms for securing their networks. For example, Percept Limited uses firewalls and security solutions provided by Symantec. The company has an in-house team that develops its software applications. It currently uses DOS-based applications, primarily for financial and accounting purposes.

Deccan Herald has a multilevel security structure in place, comprising firewalls, antivirus protection, etc. Business Standard uses network security components such as firewalls with UTM facility in the gateway, anti-spam devices for mailing solutions and antivirus applications to protect its network from any potential threat.

The way forward

Most of the respondents intend to enhance their telecom networks over the next year. DCHL, for instance, plans to implement hotlines and upgrade the capacity of its leased line network. “A hotline is a point-to-point communications link, in which a call is automatically directed to the preselected destination without any intervention from the user,” explains the respondent.

RBNL is looking to enhance its existing networking pattern, wherein most of its nationwide stations will be controlled by a centrally located station through wide area network connectivity.

All in all, technology has permeated all levels of functioning in companies in the media and entertainment segment. This has helped such players deliver news 24x7 as well as enhance content distribution channels.

List of respondents

• Business Standard, Apurba Kundu, DGM, Systems

• Dharma Productions, Respondent

• Deccan Chronicle Holdings Limited, Mohammad Wasim, Manager, Systems

• Deccan Herald, Respondent

• Eros International Media Limited, Respondent

• Percept Limited, Respondent

• Reliance Broadcast Network Limited, Shahid Ali, Senior Manager, Technical

• Sri Adhikari Brothers Television Network, Respondent

• The Indian Express, Sanjeeb Choudhury, Senior Manager, IT

• The Pioneer, R.S. Kandari, Senior Manager, Systems







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