M&E Companies are Overcoming Pandemic Security Challenges and Adapting


As the world responds to the COVID-19 pandemic at a regional, national and global level, media and entertainment companies have been working diligently to overcome security and other challenges as they strategically plan their re-openings.

“There’s a lot of information and disinformation out there around COVID,” Richard Atkinson, GM and senior director of the Global Non-Genuine Segment & Fraud Prevention at Adobe, said May 12, speaking during the virtual panel presentation “What is the ‘New Normal’ for the Security Community?” at the Cybersecurity & Content Protection Summit (CCPS), held digitally as part of the NAB Show Express experience. 

Everybody’s asking when things will return to normal, he said, pointing to four key steps to developing a strategy around COVID-19 that make good business sense while we attempt to figure that out.

First: Get smart on the issue and rely on experts to help frame things and also leverage history, which tends to repeat itself, he noted.

Second, he suggested using a very simple model based on best, worst and likely middle-case scenarios. The best case scenario for the current pandemic is that it will probably last longer than six months and it would be wise to expect little to change immediately, he noted.

The mid-case scenario calls for it to last about two years and for it to likely get worse before it gets better, he said, noting this is what many companies are projecting. The decisions that need to be made using this scenario involve preserving the core business of a company and call for making conservative, prudent business decisions, he said.

The worst case scenario calls for the pandemic to last 5-10 years, with COVID-returning 2-3 times in significant ways, he pointed out. Under this scenario, consider anything and expect it to get much worse, he said.

The third step of the strategy he cited is to base a company’s decisions around “plausibility, not likelihood,” he said.

The fourth step revolves around the “shape of the curve,” he said, noting companies should not base their strategies around what they want to happen, but what’s really going to happen based on history and what experts are saying is likely to happen, he said.

“You may not like these outcomes. Who would?” he told viewers. But this is “definitely not business as usual,” he said, adding this all still seems like “early days” in the pandemic.

At Adobe, everybody works from home now and can’t go to the office even if they want to for the time being, he also told viewers. “I don’t know that I need to go back” to the office and the “vast majority of my staff feels the same way,” he said. One major benefit of working remotely: “You get all this time back” from what was spent commuting, he said.

Amblin’s COVID-19 Experience

Shira Harrison, VP of IT at Amblin Entertainment, noted that her many responsibilities at the company include overseeing IT and information security, adding she recently moved the company’s staff from the studio to work remotely from home.
She was pleasantly surprised with how the entertainment industry has met the challenge of COVID-19 considering how much it has traditionally tended to want to stick with old practices.

However, she said, it seems people are adopting new tools and adapting well to the shift to remote work.

Responding to Atkinson’s suggestions, she noted it’s tough to make informed decision when you don’t have enough information, and when whatever we know today could change tomorrow because it doesn’t seem like anybody knows anything at this time.

In cases like this, Harrison likes to divide things into separate, small pieces that can more easily be handled as much as possible, based on available information and not guessing, she said.

Thus far, one thing that she has learned during the pandemic is that some members of her team at Amblin can actually work better from home. Therefore, it might make sense for companies to allow some members of its team to continue working from home for the time being at least, while others who have to can work from the office, she noted.

It was challenging for her company when it initially went remote because some staff had desktop PCs at home, she pointed out. To solve that issue, Amblin gave critical staff laptops to use at home before the lockdown, she said. Supporting a team remotely from an IT perspective is also a challenge, she noted.

There is, meanwhile, no better way to test a firm’s disaster recovery plan than to try it out, she said, adding the pain points start showing up pretty quickly.

Overall, Amblin has made a smooth transition to remote work and, except for physical production at her company, it is business as usual for the most part now, she said. What helps is that most of its movies (three) are in post-production, but are moving forward as scheduled, she said.

Now, Amblin just needs movie theaters to open, she said, adding Amblin can’t control that, but can control everything else.

COVID-19 will end eventually and, for now, Amblin is using the opportunity to learn, she said, adding that, in the meantime, the company is going to make processes that are tired and old better and come out of the pandemic stronger.

Concluding the session, moderator Guy Finley, president of the Content Delivery & Security Association (CDSA) and the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA), said: “What a tremendous opportunity [this is] to innovate…. Let’s adopt. Let’s innovate. While we’ve got this chance to start over, let’s start over and make it right.”

Presented by Richey May Technology Solutions, with sponsorship by Akamai, Cyberhaven, Microsoft Azure, SHIFT, Convergent Risks, and the Trusted Partner Network (TPN), the Cybersecurity & Content Protection Summit focused on the latest cybersecurity and content protection challenges studios, broadcasters and vendors alike are facing during the ongoing pandemic.

Produced under the direction of the CDSA Board of Directors and content advisors representing Amazon Studios, Adobe, Paramount, BBC Studios, NBCUniversal, Lionsgate, WarnerMedia, Amblin Entertainment, Legendary Pictures, and Lego Group, this year’s Cybersecurity & Content Protection Summit looked ahead at the challenges facing the security community in 2020 and beyond.