Content is the lifeblood of a media company. It enters the company’s circulation in the form of negotiations and acquisitions, or even vague concepts in the long-term plan. It moves through the company, crystallizes into fully prepared and formatted material, is published on diverse services and channels, and eventually ends up sold or gathering dust in the back catalogue. All along this life cycle its flow and data need to be managed and monitored. The strategy for this journey has been revolutionized by access to data right from the word go.
And so the circle of content life begins
Right at the beginning of this circle of life, the acquisition executive of any media company with decent rights management and a real-time avails inventory in place should know which content needs to be produced or acquired by when. And as long as a sound return on investment is to be achieved, they need to do that with a data-based strategy. Thanks to the massive quantities of available data about viewer behaviour, acquisition executives can now get insight into how new content acquisitions will perform with specific audiences and how these acquisitions will help achieve specific targets, such as attracting new subscribers or reducing subscriber churn. If the strategy and stock forecasts indicate that they need to acquire more sports rights, for instance, they will evaluate specific content for each channel or service, group it into a package, apply budgets, expected costs and desired rights to it, and send it through an internal approval process. More often than not this involves a series of separate systems or Excel sheets, while this could be coordinated by one central platform that directly interacts with the rest of the media operation ecosystem. Acquisition executives can enter information specifying what they want, such as titles, exploitation windows, and number of runs. At this early stage, they may also describe the required material, such as video, script, press kit, and soundtracks, together with the expected deadline.
‘By the time the contract is signed, the system already has amassed a wide range of information.”
If this buying order gets the go-ahead, the negotiator has all the information they need to try to come to an agreement with the distributor, production house, or another content provider, and if all goes well the result is a deal memo which leads to a signed contract. The central system will have managed the whole process from screening and negotiation rounds — keeping track of negotiated agreements — through to acquisition. During the process it will describe the status and the corresponding restrictions on what data specific departments can view or edit. Screened programmes and their evaluations can for example be entered into the system hidden from view until the process has reached a stage where specific information about the content can be made visible to other departments. By the time the contract is signed, the system already has amassed a wide range of information including a rights summary that captures the restrictions, obligations, and elemental rights in all their granularity. The central system is also where the contracts are checked and approved, and the commitments with distributors are monitored, indicating whether the expected values have been reached, exceeded, or failed, with an overview of current and predicted discrepancies detailed down to the contract details. It also has the data on invoices. As all this needs to work in an international setting, the system should be able to describe multiterritory rights, language needs, and multicurrency payment schedules
Capturing rights data for a new concept of content
This focus on centralized and structured information right from the start, ensures that all parties enter data in a consistent way, that the data is searchable and can feed reports, but also that the system can act on that data, for instance warn on specific deadlines, track the use of rights, and raise the accuracy of the data. To meet the current reality in the media industry, the model for capturing rights should be extended to the earliest stages in the acquisition process and be scaled up to support all forms of content, including audio and text for instance. The sheer magnitude of data that needs to be entered will render Artificial Intelligence increasingly important, for instance for automatic document uploads. Where data entry cannot be automated, the effort should be minimized thanks to easy-to-use web-based applications that plug into the central, cloud-based rights management platform and enable the usual as well as new user profiles to easily enter the required data through a simple task-oriented interface. To further raise efficiency and avoid unnecessary and duplicate data entries, the diverse parties should only have to enter the data they are unique to, and not data that can just as well be queried from sundry databases.
Content marketplace in the cloud
Big international media groups centralize their rights management for all their channels, platforms, and services worldwide. They put all content they have acquired or produced in a global content management system in the Cloud, ready to be shared by channels and platforms across the globe. If the media assets in the system each contain all video, audio and subtitle files for one item of content, that content can be shared by all channels in whichever territories, and each channel automatically receives the content in the right localized version. The idea of providing access worldwide to content and rights data that is centralized in the Cloud has also given rise to global content marketplaces in the Cloud where content is showcased to a global community of buyers and deals can be made in a matter of days. From this virtual place, content can start a new circle of life anywhere in the world.
Do you share this vision on rights management? What is your vision? What are your challenges and ambitions? Let’s talk.