Q&A: Google Cloud’s Honeycutt says traditional media is ready to go all in on cloud

John Honeycutt

When John Honeycutt says legacy media is starting to fully come around on cloud, he has decades of experience backing up that observation.

Honeycutt was recently appointed head of telecommunications, media and entertainment for Google Cloud. Prior to that, he spent more than 15 years with Discovery Inc., where he rose to the level of chief technology officer. He’s also spent years working for Fox Broadcasting Company and Liberty Media.

In his new role at Google Cloud, Honeycutt is leveraging his experience of being inside a programmer to help shape the next steps around cloud infrastructure for the media and entertainment space.

“I think this industry is really in a moment. I think the moment is here in terms of transformation, cycles of investment, adoption specifically to cloud,” said Honeycutt. “I can feel it … the momentum. We were very successful in what we attempted to do at Discovery and I think some others have moved the ball now. At scale, we’re starting to see people go, ‘OK, it’s time.’”

We sat down with Honeycutt during the recent NAB Show in Las Vegas to get his take on how the cloud is forming over the media and entertainment industry.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

FierceVideo: Google created a new role for you. What’s happening in the industry now that Google Cloud has determined it needed a head of telecommunications, media and entertainment?

John Honeycutt: What happened in cloud is that we established multiple verticals. We’ve got a healthcare vertical, we’ve got a financial services vertical, retail as a vertical. And for all those verticals, we’ve attempted to bring in talent and resources that come from within the industry.

For media specifically, if you look at wider Google and the assets that Google has inside its company, there’s a rich legacy and a rich capability set inside of content, be that YouTube, YouTube TV or Google Ad Manager. Google has a strong position in media and I think cloud really is the center of all of that. If we aggregate content into cloud we can then begin to manipulate, distribute and ultimately put insights into some of that content.

It’s a place where we see market availability, we see capability and we see cloud sitting at the center.

FierceVideo: You have a ton of pay TV experience.

Honeycutt: 25-plus years.

FierceVideo: What are the most pressing priorities in terms of migrating traditional video distribution workflows to the cloud? What’s not happening right now that just has to start happening?

Honeycutt: Volume of content flow. There’s just not enough. There are not enough workflows that are either driving to or resulting in a transfer of assets into cloud. We’re just not doing it at enough volume yet to begin to scale and drive operations. We’re still in the very early innings of this process but we’re also doing it very sporadically. There are not many end-to-end examples in the world where people say, “I’m doing all of this.” We announced one that doesn’t come from legacy but is a partnership with fuboTV that’s an OTT platform built from zero to in consumers’ hands in 24 months. That’s pretty incredible.

The traditional infrastructure players are still finding places where they think cloud could be helpful and they are thinking about in practical and tactical terms. It’s not yet, “I’m going to transform this entire workflow.” But in the last two days, I’ve had probably a dozen conversations with people who are like, “It’s time. We’re ready to go now. We’re seeing the capabilities. We’re seeing places in the workflow where there is material benefit.” And I think you’re also seeing at a leadership level, the CTO is no longer saying it’s not ready yet. That discussion is no longer valid because the CTO and the CFO are now really starting to see the benefit of cloud, virtualization, IP and the whole recipe.

FierceVideo: How about the same question for nontraditional media?

Honeycutt: Look, that’s a proliferation of platform discussion at this point. There are a lot of people who are attempting to aggregate and bring new packages to consumers and it remains a really challenging world. Where in the content stack do you want to play in your platform? Are you going to play in sports or high-end content? Are you going to play in a long-tail capacity? Do you want to be a local market aggregator or a global content aggregator? I think there are dozens and dozens of examples of that around the world and all of those platforms have different needs and capabilities.

If you’re in sports, you need ultra-low latency and high security. If you’re in a classic catchup service, you need a recommendation engine and packaging in terms of genre. I think the opportunity now is to bring those platforms into a place and with an architecture that’s modular enough where you can just plug in experiences. They’re not custom-built experiences anymore. They’re just experiences that are derived either from your consumption habits or tools like AutoML that serve to surface content in ways you may have not done in the past.