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FOX Corporation Delivers Content to Millions by Building FOX MediaCloud on AWS

2020

When an acquisition in early 2019 required the separation of assets, FOX Corporation had to migrate massive amounts of content from its on-premises MediaCloud platform, which handled distribution of television and theatrical content to various video-on-demand and broadcast endpoints. The existing MediaCloud could be replicated, but the company felt that it needed to establish a more robust and flexible solution so that it could store the volumes of data and handle file-transcoding and file-sharing needs with a leaner MediaCloud team.

FOX Corporation turned to Amazon Web Services (AWS) for the support and tools that made it possible to move the entire operation to the cloud, taking advantage of both serverless and containerized architectures, machine learning, automation, and other solutions to make the ingestion, transcoding, and delivery of content a seamless process. The company was also able to create a centralized repository of assets—one that is searchable (with files containing metadata) and easily adaptable to the format each endpoint requires.

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We quickly spun up multiple transfer nodes on premises to ingest roughly 8 PB of content to Amazon S3 in about 6 weeks.”

Whil Reliford
Vice President of Media Services, FOX Corporation

Successful Data Migration Opens a Door to Possibilities

In March of 2019, FOX Corporation formed as a 20th Century FOX spin-off, containing all the assets of 20th Century FOX that were not acquired by the Walt Disney Company in a merger. Today it produces and distributes news, sports, and entertainment content through domestic brands, including FOX News Media, FOX Sports, FOX Entertainment, and FOX Television Stations, as well as a variety of video-on-demand distribution outlets.

Prior to the Disney acquisition, 20th Century FOX had used an on-premises version of its MediaCloud platform. “When we initially started using AWS, it was to solve a specific problem,” says Whil Reliford, vice president of media services at FOX Corporation. The problem was the large quantities of data that needed to be migrated from the old MediaCloud in order to separate assets. On AWS, FOX Corporation found a solution that included Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), a scalable object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance. “With the help of our AWS account team and AWS Professional Services folks, we quickly spun up multiple transfer nodes on premises to ingest roughly 8 PB of content to Amazon S3 in about 6 weeks. We then used Amazon S3 Cross-Region replication to move a copy of each asset to an additional region for disaster recovery,” says Reliford. “It was so wildly successful that it opened the doors for us to start thinking about the next-generation version of this application,” says Reliford.

In the old system, the MediaCloud team had faced multiple challenges. It now saw potential solutions on AWS. “We had hundreds of servers across the many different environments we supported, and we didn’t have as much flexibility as we wanted to make changes and upgrades,” says Reliford. “We were continuously running out of storage, and it became increasingly expensive to continue to expand.” The team wanted to get away from the single-server installations and move to a containerized version of microservices on AWS, gaining the ability to replicate services across regions, if necessary. There was also a need for greater flexibility and quicker innovation.

FOX Corporation Builds on AWS for Functionality and Flexibility

After initial success migrating company assets to AWS, FOX Corporation was ready to start building out its new platform with solutions in mind. “We knew, based on how the separation was happening, that we were going to be a smaller, leaner company,” says Reliford. “So we wanted to make smart decisions that included a ton of automation and intelligence around some of the media workflows that we wanted to support.” The build began with the entire front end sitting in an Amazon S3 bucket. FOX Corporation’s technical team then looked at deploying code in a way that would use different AWS services for the replication, including Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), a web service providing secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud.

Additionally, the team used Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS)—a service that makes it easy to set up, operate, and scale a relational database in the cloud—to manage the databases that support FOX Corporation’s various platforms and microservices and to help the company’s media asset management systems. “We then added Amazon Elasticsearch Service [Amazon ES] for our search and discovery capabilities within the platform,” says Reliford. After that, the team used tools like Celery and Amazon MQ—a managed message broker service for Apache ActiveMQ—for managing queues.

Amazon CloudFront—a fast and secure content delivery network service that delivers data, videos, applications, and APIs to customers globally—sits in front of the user interface that runs out of Amazon S3. By using Amazon CloudFront in conjunction with Amazon S3, FOX Corporation enables quick media delivery at scale across the United States. “On the transcoding side, we started slowly but surely integrating AWS Elemental MediaConvert to do some of the transformation of our assets that we distribute,” says Reliford. The team quickly realized many opportunities by using AWS and was pleasantly surprised to find that among these gains were the abilities to create and manage closed captioning as part of broadcast workflows. “We have been taking advantage of artificial intelligence and machine learning on AWS, using Amazon Transcribe and Amazon Rekognition for some of the content that’s being pushed to the platform,” says Reliford. “We used Amazon Transcribe to extract text from audio and Amazon Rekognition to identify faces, places, logos, and objects in our promos, clips, and programs and to store that information as metadata associated with the asset.”

Use of AWS Leads to a Win

The resulting solution is the new FOX MediaCloud, which no longer requires individual teams to handle specific content or transform it for various use cases. Using metadata to tag content on the source asset now enables automated intelligent transcoding when the asset is uploaded. At this stage, it is also possible to embed and encode Nielsen ratings and to automatically tag data. The data is then automatically pushed to the different endpoints in the correct format needed for each. “All in all, we have 300-plus different endpoints where we would push content out, and that’s just the auto-pushes,” says Reliford. “We still have individuals who go in and download the content they need directly from the portal.” A central repository also provides the ability to search and discover content that has already been ingested and distributed for other use cases.

Not only did this new platform make processing and distributing programming quick and efficient, but it also enabled the development of innovations in the integration and distribution of promotional materials. “The promo materials can go out to different social sites and different digital platforms, including our electronic sell-through partners,” says Reliford. “FOX MediaCloud can then stitch the promos into some of the programming at the head and tail, which gets pushed out to Vudu, Fandango, Sony Corporation, Amazon Prime, and Google, as well as our own Tubi platform.”

Additional benefits from building on AWS include the ability to edit large files without needing to download and upload (a huge boon for those working with limited home-internet bandwidth due to the COVID-19 pandemic), the ability to transfer large amounts of content quickly (including 2,000 assets within 2 hours for Tubi), and the ability to scale services as needed to meet demands.

By using AWS services, FOX Corporation was able to tackle the complex problem of uploading, transcoding, and distributing large quantities of data in a multitude of formats. “We’re not necessarily a pie-in-the-sky type of team,” says Reliford. “But we want to innovate; we want to continue to automate; and we aspire to be a world-class content-transformation and content-distribution supply chain. And whenever we have an idea or something that we want to achieve or want to improve, we turn to AWS first.”

About FOX Corporation

FOX Corporation produces and distributes news, sports, and entertainment content through domestic brands, including FOX News Media, FOX Sports, FOX Entertainment, and FOX Television Stations.

Benefits of AWS

  • Expanded automated capabilities, reducing number of required employees
  • Enabled quick processing and distributing of programming
  • Moved 2,000 assets to Tubi in 2 hours
  • Quickly migrated roughly 8 PB of data
  • Ingested roughly 8 PB of content to Amazon S3 in about 6 weeks


AWS Services Used

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2)

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web-scale cloud computing easier for developers.

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Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3)

Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance.

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AWS Professional Services

The AWS Professional Services organization is a global team of experts that can help you realize your desired business outcomes when using the AWS Cloud.

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Amazon MQ

Amazon MQ is a managed message broker service for Apache ActiveMQ and RabbitMQ that makes it easy to set up and operate message brokers on AWS.

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