As published on IBC365, Sept. 2019
Banking on an open architecture and leveraging new technologies, Broadcast Management Platforms should enable innovative solutions to be implemented with the speed and flexibility this age requires.
If you increase flexibility, reduce operational overheads and costs, increase the ability to explore new revenue streams and cherish your audience, then surely you are turning the odds of survival to your advantage. Broadcasters crave a new content ecosystem to tackle all these challenges, they are looking towards the Broadcast Management Platform to play a pivotal role in this vision.
It’s a well-worn mantra in this industry that “everything is changing and the future is unknown”, to the point that you might be inclined to dismiss any article that carries a headline to that effect. Evidently, changes in technology have unleashed a chain reaction that is still ongoing in the broadcasting business. Undeniably the way people watch content has totally changed in just a few years’ time. Hardly a day passes by without a new service or app being launched that allows viewers to access content in a new way on a new device. In addition to the truly spectacular evolution in technically getting content to the viewer, there is an equal but less visible revolution going on in the back office.
Empowering the back office
The back office systems —or the broadcast management systems as they are called—ensure that the broadcaster can seamlessly manage their channels, services and apps that all serve content to the viewers. The workflows ensure that content and rights are managed, that stock levels and amortisations are in balance and that the strategic intention of the company gets translated into linear schedules and on-demand release plans. Descriptions of broadcast management systems are plenty and diverse, but now the very definition of the broadcast management system is being questioned.
Different times call for a different scope. Today’s multiplatform media landscape requires workflows that are tightly integrated with great flexibility and adaptability — more efficient, automated workflows. Media companies need to optimize the revenue that they can generate with their content and this raises the desire to explore or invent new business models. All these extra needs evidently require flexible multi-vendor solutions that reduce hardware and personnel costs while offering more functionality with a higher level of services. This is a tall order indeed, and there is no simple overnight solution.
It is exactly this context that inspires the new generation broadcast management systems. These solutions integrate with best-of breed solutions, and APIs to piece it all together. The new vision around open architectures helps media companies to face growing complexities across OTT, DTC, On Demand and Linear services and allows them to reach for new business models. To the stability of an established solution they can add the power and flexibility of cloud-based components, leveraging new technologies, such as AI and machine learning.
Take linear scheduling. Scheduling content on TV channels is a complex and time-consuming task, handled by experienced planning managers. They have deep knowledge on how to attract and retain viewers by scheduling the content that is available to them and they do that in a way that optimizes their company’s mission. But whether they are planning high value content in primetime or the umpteenth rerun in a part of the day where the audience is negligibly small. it takes them the same number of manipulations. The industry is in need of solutions that drastically reduce the human effort required for scheduling content during off-peak hours.
But what makes a schedule a good schedule? Of course, there should be no overlap or gaps between transmissions. But there is also cost of the content, efficient use of the stock, audience flows and evidently ratings. Scheduling is a multi-dimensional problem.
So, there is a large variety of properties and measurements that make a schedule good or bad, and the dimensions differ from broadcaster to broadcaster, even from channel to channel. MEDIAGENIX is currently developing an AI scheduling solution that allows the users to optimally fill off-peak schedules in a matter of seconds.
Exploring new revenue streams
Broadcast management systems are also increasingly expected to help media companies explore new revenue streams. Global competition and the FAANGs are pushing broadcasters to produce more exclusive content than ever. This comes at a cost that has to be balanced with new revenues. Licensing distribution rights for other countries, markets or platforms to third parties is one of the most rewarding revenue generators.
But how can they detect which titles are available for selling? And with so many rights holders involved how can they be sure they have cleared all rights? Above all, they want to avoid legal issues and penalties. More often than not, the information is scattered over multiple sources and time and time again they find themselves copying data from the scheduling system, Excel sheets or paper documents. Keeping a clear view on costs, following up on tasks, dealing with complex revenue distribution calculations … it’s time consuming and error-prone. Losing track of communications around proposals, deals and sales people are left with the feeling they could make more and better deals if only the information was consolidated in a central place.
With a newly developed cloud-native web app MEDIAGENIX commit to help media companies cut though the complexity and pitfalls of selling content rights, eliminate time consuming chores, and save more time to optimize a key revenue stream. Linked to the content repository of Broadcast Management Platform WHATS’ON, this web app enables broadcasters to efficiently identify sales opportunities, plan sales, clear rights, draw up deals, orchestrate and follow up on tasks, calculate and manage revenue distribution and —in a later stage—draw up contracts and deliver the materials.
Making optimum use of availabilities
Apart from finding new revenue streams, media companies need to maximize the existing ones. And this comes down to taking a closer look at the content they can offer. What rights do they have on the content? What distribution platforms are available and through which technique can they best reach the viewer and serve their business goals with each title? Maybe it is on a premium pay service, or on Facebook or YouTube, maybe on a linear channel.
Any media company that publish their content on diverse platforms have seen the complexity of their content distribution grow exponentially. Blockbusters, vintage series and movies, gameshows and soaps, old content or new, … all require a different approach, which always needs to ensure the highest operational efficiency, immediate insight into availabilities, and instant information to make strategic decisions.
Contracts can be very complicated, however, and many properties on the contract need to be taken into account to know what is available for planning on linear and on-demand. The broadcast management solution should provide a condensed view on the available content, which immediately adjusts to changes in the planning, and make it easy for users to find and schedule products that are available during the period they are working on.
Keeping an eye on underlying rights
A popular way to maximize the use of content, is to repurpose it across platforms and services. To be able to repurpose content, slice and dice and recompose it, put it on an on-demand platform, or stream it, media companies need to know whether there is some restriction on some part of the content, a royalty contract attached to some other part, or an issue on some music track. And they need to be sure that such parts of the content are not reused. Again, this is where today’s channel management solutions need to provide answers.
The solution should provide the much-needed overviews and flag possible issues, taking real-time accuracy to frame-level. Once entered, information should be reused all along the product’s life cycle and everybody in every department should working on the same, real-time data.
At Swiss public broadcaster RTS, WHATS’ON users segment the content to prepare its distribution, or define the various rights on these segments. The system informs them about clearance problems or the additional costs involved. Other companies use the solution for monitoring royalty statuses.
Calculating revenue shares
As media companies try and monetize their content across platforms, their business models grow sophisticated. As a consequence, calculations for royalties and participations have grown in complexity. At RTLNL, for instance, millions of VOD/OTT consumption records a month need to be ingested for intricate revenue share calculations if distributors, platforms and talent are to get what is theirs by right. New solutions need to provide the calculating power and the overview.
Whatever kinds of calculations are needed for whatever kind of beneficiary the new WHATS’ON revenue share calculation engine by MEDIAGENIX allows users at RTLNL to produce the needed overviews and a range of reports which can be easily pre-configured or manually produced according to user reporting requirements.
Cherishing the viewer with sports and esports
With so many choices available to the viewer, it becomes hard for broadcasters to hang on to them. Reaching out to this elusive viewer, many jump on the sports and esports bandwagon. As they do so, they find out that sports or live broadcasting is very different from non-live broadcasting. As the differences in workflows and required functionality span across all departments they need a channel management solution that is fit for purpose.
Globalising and localising
As media companies are seeking scale, we see that even MAMs, Playouts and Airtime Sales Systems are moving to the cloud. A similar trend emerges to centralise all content ever produced or bought 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 broadcast management platform each contain all video, audio and subtitle files for one item of content, the content can be shared by all channels in whichever regions, and each channel automatically receives the content in the right (language) version.
With globalisation comes the need for efficiency in localisation. During a recent implementation, A+E (History Channel) took the opportunity to overhaul their localisation workflow and, where possible, automate the supply chain with their localisation vendor(s), with a view to reducing errors and duplication, increasing efficiency, and creating space for increased monitoring. It led to better quality and an improved experience for the language houses concerned as well as for their internal workforce. The bulk of their language material is ordered automatically, the rest is management by exception.
Going forth in the content-centric era
We find ourselves in the new reality of the content-centric era. Digital technology has broken down the barriers that stood between the content and the viewer, long-standing business models and relationships are changing and new players pop up. Media companies are repositioning themselves, exploring new models such as integrating video, audio and print, DTC, starting up consortiums to kill the ‘Flixes’ or gearing up to join them.
In the meantime, business software and the IT industry itself are undergoing major changes. Cloud services, browser-based applications, a continued need for new (micro) services and support for global organisations are but a few of the ingredients that spice up the life of software solution suppliers such as MEDIAGENIX. Yes, the media business is in disruption, but with every new generation of Broadcast Management Platform, the way to survive or thrive becomes nearer for the broadcaster.