In a clear sign of the times at IBC2019, The Walt Disney Studios announced a five-year “innovation partnership” with Microsoft.

The technology collaboration, which will explore new methodologies for content creation and distribution via Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, is a strong indicator that increasing economic advantages are finally set to make cloud-based production an inescapable reality in the media and entertainment business.

Microsoft’s Media Message

Long ballyhooed as the future of production and post, the cloud has been a less-than-straightforward proposition for Hollywood, which has some fairly rigorous requirements for any new infrastructure, including real-time responsiveness, robust security measures and bulletproof back-up plans. Microsoft has understood those needs better than most — in 2016, Azure became the first public cloud service to be audited by the MPA (then the MPAA) for compliance with the organization’s best practices for content security.

And Microsoft has aggressively wooed others in the industry to embrace cloud services. The need for robust media workflow has been addressed in part through Avid’s creation of a cloud-native version of its MediaCentral platform offering Media Composer and Nexis storage on Azure, itself part of a strategic alliance with Microsoft.

Projects in the StudioLab

In addition to leveraging Avid’s platform, Disney said that it will work with Microsoft to create new cloud-based solutions for production and post-production through its StudioLab “technology hub,” a 3,500 facility located in the old animation building on the Disney studio lot.

“By moving many of our production and post-production workflows to the cloud, we’re optimistic that we can create content more quickly and efficiently around the world,” said The Walt Disney Studios CTO Jamie Voris in a prepared statement. “Through this innovation partnership with Microsoft, we’re able to streamline many of our processes so our talented filmmakers can focus on what they do best.”

Microsoft competitor Amazon Web Services was at IBC, too, demonstrating media-creation solutions with members of its partner network. They include Brightcove, Deluxe, with its Amazon-hosted Deluxe One content management system, EditShare, Ftrack,  Ownzones Entertainment Technologies, Ross Video and Signiant, among many others. And Google Cloud Services had its own agenda, including a range of video processing, editing, and syndication services, including dynamic ad insertion and global content distribution.

But the Disney announcement was a real feather in Microsoft’s cap — and a signal to Disney’s studio competitors that production and post are set to leverage the cloud in a big way.

“The cloud has reached a tipping point for the media industry, and it’s not surprising that The Walt Disney Studios, which has its heritage based on a passion for innovation and technology, is at the forefront of this transformation,” said Microsoft U.S. President Kate Johnson in a prepared statement. “The combination of Azure’s hyperscale capacity, global distribution, and industry-leading storage and networking capabilities with Disney’s strong history of industry leadership unlocks new opportunity in the media and entertainment space and will power new ways to drive content and creativity at scale.”