MEDIA & ENTERTAINMENT

Media Workflows in the Cloud is Ultimate End Game for Liverpool Football Club

November 28, 2022By David Ball

Liverpool Football Club (LFC) is easily one of the biggest global brands in and out of sports, with 1.12 billion followers worldwide1. What’s not so easy is managing the integrated digital estate needed to continuously feed fresh content to this massive audience. That task rests with LFC senior vice president of digital, Drew Crisp, whose team is responsible for creating, storing, and distributing a wide variety of digital media assets, building all of the digital products that serve these assets, and running all of the marketing for the club and its partners. Suffice it to say, all of this work generates huge volumes of content, from motion graphics and 10-second social media clips to full football matches approaching a terabyte of data. “Our job is to enable our content creators to produce and distribute impactful content that resonates with our fan base in the most streamlined and frictionless way possible,” said Drew. “We don’t have a huge technology team supporting the digital media organization, so being more efficient when it comes to the time and money spent on the operational side of things is essential.”

To put their scope of work in perspective, Drew’s digital media team runs its own 24/7 TV channel, as well as an OTT platform. They create all the media assets for live games, the club’s websites, fan-facing applications, 15 social channels, plus the entire tech stack and infrastructure to make it all happen. Their largely on-premises infrastructure came with large overhead in both cost and upkeep. Coupled with data silos and duplicative manual processes that were slowing them down, Drew was already on the hunt for a new media management and storage solution when the pandemic hit in early 2020.

Key drivers for migrating to the cloud

In the early days of the pandemic, Drew and his team quickly moved their operations to a hybrid-cloud model to enable their content creators and editors to work from home. However, remote work was merely an accelerator for what Drew deems as inevitable to ensure future innovation, flexibility, and scalability: a complete migration to cloud-based services.

LFC’s on-premises infrastructure is a traditional SAN and NAS setup. “We’re talking a full rack of 24 spinning disks, which is not only energy-intensive but takes up a lot of physical space,” said Drew. “It also comes with expensive CapEx investments every three-to-five years and a lot of technical overhead dealing with disk failures and rebuilding or replacing the RAID.”

Preserving his technical operations team’s time was key to Drew’s decision-making. “By moving to the cloud, we’re making those types of upgrades and management someone else’s problem. With a managed service approach, we only have to worry about the workflows and the content that we are creating, rather than the infrastructure and all the tech headaches that come with it.”

But even more important than cost and time savings was the elimination of data silos with anytime-anywhere access to content in the cloud. “We have many different design functions across the club, from sales to marketing to our media teams, all creating content–sometimes the same exact content,” said Drew.

Today, LFC backs up all of its digital media assets to the cloud, where it’s not only providing protection from data loss, but acting as a central repository. Their cloud of choice is Wasabi, which is now the Official Cloud Storage Partner of Liverpool Football Club.

“The second anything gets ingested into our building, it is replicated onto the Wasabi active archive. This makes it instantly accessible by anyone on our team, whether they are on-premises or off,” said Drew. The next steps will be integrating their existing Iconik media management system, which currently provides external access to their on-premises archives. “We often get external requests for assets that may be rights restricted. By connecting Iconik to Wasabi, all of this can be end-to-end. Content can be found and accessed wherever it is. Team members will be able to self-service the clips they need for their projects, which can automatically be fed through our approval/rejection workflow.”

But that’s only the beginning. Drew sees cloud storage as the foundation on which to build future innovation. “There are many different media workflow vendors out there that interoperate with Wasabi. Lucidlink, Adobe, Telstra – each of them offers different tools and capabilities that we can layer on top, sort of like building a pizza. That’s why it’s important to get the foundation–the crust, if you will–just right. And that foundation is cloud storage.”

Why Wasabi cloud object storage?

“Cloud object storage is perfect for large media files, and, frankly, nobody does cloud object storage like Wasabi. It’s all they do, and they’re brilliant at it,” said Drew. “Wasabi gives us the capacity, the scalability, and the speed we need–and they do it cheaper than anyone else.”

Drew will tell you that not having to pay egress fees for accessing their content was, “without question,” one of the main cost benefits of working with Wasabi. “We have hours and hours of content being ingested daily and more content being played out from our drives,” explained Drew. “On-premises, it doesn’t matter because the infrastructure’s bought and paid for. But having to pay for egress in the cloud is a real thing that people need to be aware of. We did some calculations with more traditional cloud storage models, and the results were eye-watering!”

Not having to worry about egress charges meant more than just lower costs. It meant more accurate budget planning. “Wasabi makes this a very simple cost model for us as we migrate from on-premises to cloud-based workflows. Yes, Wasabi is significantly less expensive than others in the market, but it’s the price predictability that enables us to wrap our head around total cost of ownership that is most appealing.”

LFC also cited the expertise and support of the Wasabi team as a factor in their decision. “The people behind the tech are amazing as well,” said Drew. “They speak the same language that we do, are extremely helpful, and are willing to hold our hands to walk us through a process that may be new to us at times. They know the cloud storage space inside and out and will point us in the right direction, even recommending other partner solutions that might be useful for us to talk to as well.”

Bring-your-own-storage approach to cloud innovation

By focusing first on storage and decoupling that vendor decision from the technologies and services LFC plans to layer on top, Drew has built flexibility into their operation by design. “There are a lot of cloud vendors out there that try to be everything to all people, but sometimes it’s best to go with the people that know their subject area really well and not buy something all-encompassing from a generalist, especially when we’re dealing with highly specialized areas. In my view, that’s what Wasabi is giving us.”

This best-of-breed vs. one-stop-shop approach enables Drew to build the best possible solution today, without being locked into an architecture or vendor relationship that could inhibit future innovation. “So many of the vendors that we’re speaking to around new capabilities and new cloud-based technologies very much operate under this ‘bring your own storage’ model, which is great for us because it doesn’t create vendor lock-in with their storage or their suppliers,” said Drew. “With Wasabi’s singular focus on cloud storage expertise, and how easily it integrates with our other cloud solutions and on-premises hardware, it means we can work smartly without having to understand what the technology is doing in the background. This enables us to focus our conversations and pull in best-of-breed partners at the right time and right place.”

What’s next for LFC?

With a solid cloud storage strategy in place, LFC can now work with the platform in any number of other areas where they have constrained or challenging business processes–be that in post-production, their editing suite, or for real-time streaming on their TV platform. “We’ll be looking at opportunities for centralizing other broader estate backup of critical business systems to Wasabi. But the immediate opportunity is all about optimizing asset management,” said Drew. “We’ll be starting to review our entire post-production before the end of the calendar year. We have a renewal coming up for the post-production system next summer. Ideally, we see ourselves moving away from on-premise equipment and into the cloud to take greater advantage of our Wasabi cloud storage.”

Eventually, Drew envisions a role for Wasabi in on-demand content play out. “We run 24/7 television channels, so we’ve been looking at play out in the cloud for a while. We see Wasabi as a foundational technology to enable us to explore this in more detail. In due course, we can even look at how to do live shows through the Telstras of the world with the content stored in Wasabi. Again, it’s the continuation of decoupling the hardware and the reliance on a central location to putting these things in the cloud, which gives us greater flexibility and more reliability, and at a much lower cost.”

Notes


  1. Source: Nielsen/ PL Full Market Study 2020 

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