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M&E Journal: Securing Large-Scale Supply Chains Globally

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By Tony Miles, Co-Founder, CEO, Fortium

Globalization has led to the shrinking of the world. Marketplaces that were off limits a decade ago are now easily targetable by those with the will, and expertise, to do so.

This is true for M&E, just like any other industry, and it’s a welcome opportunity. No longer is a media release in North America alone likely to be profitable; according to the Motion Picture Association, attendance at U.S. and Canadian cinemas fell to a 22-year low in 2017. Theatrical content needs to be released day-and-date across as many markets as possible to maximize revenue.

Proof of this is to be found in the following: Global cinema box office sales reached a record high of $40.6 billion in 2017, despite the drop in North America. This growth was fueled by new markets like China. Avengers: Endgame grossed over $500 million in China alone, the third-highest theatrical revenue generator of 2019 at time of writing, and the fourth highest in Chinese history.
The same is true for traditional programming and on-demand offerings.

These new markets are key to expanding the coffers of content owners that in the past relied on U.S. and other English-speaking markets. All of the traditional players are moving into the SVOD space, with a gross total of 531 million subscribers across all platforms in 50-plus countries expected by 2024.

To reach these emerging markets, you need to localize content. This is happening at an incredible rate: the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) market for localization services in the TV, movie and video sector exceeded $2.3 billion in 2018, according to a Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) report. The same report forecasts a 5 percent to 8 percent increase in demand through to 2021.
The reason is obvious: consumers want to watch content in their own native tongue. Language dubbing accounts for 70 percent of all localization spend, according to the same MESA report. If it’s not spoken word, then subtitled shows are the cheaper alternative.

Minimizing the risks of localization
These new opportunities represent fertile ground for growth, but they also increase risk. Fortium’s own research shows that media files for theatrical releases can travel to over 25 countries per project.

This involves at least a dozen specialist localization offices, over three months, with upwards of 100 talented localizers. There are several file generations used, each with different codec requirements (the introduction of IMF notwithstanding) that are then used with each locations’ preferred editing tools. There are a lot of moving parts in this new, and rapidly expanding, supply chain.

This comes with security challenges. What was once a supply chain concentrated in Hollywood or London is now spread out across the globe. Sensitive media is being sent to companies that are relatively new or have grown dramatically in size over the past 10 years. How can this challenge be best met?

Steps are being taken by the Trusted Partner Network (TPN) to standardize security protocols across post-production and localization studios. This is entirely welcome and ensuring the network is secure is a good starting point. Recognizing what good practice looks like across differing environments is vitally important to the strength of the supply chain.

Focus on what you can control
At Fortium we believe new approaches can complement this. Cybersecurity is moving away from network or perimeter-based protocols, instead relying on zero-trust models. How can media companies replicate this?

Fortium has been successful in securing large scale supply chains within M&E projects. For localization, post-production or marketing, these projects involve hundreds of translators for months at a time.

Security here is achieved by focusing on something that is easily controllable by the originator studio.

If the security is linked specifically to the high-value content being worked on, then it’s easier for content owners to control. Access is easily regulated by the following:

*An access control list (ACL) can ensure only pre-approved users can work on certain media files.

*Multi-factor authentication can guarantee those attempting file access are exactly who they say they are.

*File revocation can be enforced at the end of projects, to turn off file access if needed.

The above can be set up and specified by the owner of the encrypted content. This empowers third-party localizers, allowing them to concentrate on the creative process.

The supply chain is growing rapidly and will continue to do so. The world may be shrinking but the security risks are greater than ever. We need to make each link in the supply chain as strong as possible.

Thankfully, the industry has both the will, and the expertise, to do so.

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