Data, AI Initiatives Highlighted at Smart Content Summit

LOS ANGELES — At the March 9 Smart Content Summit West event, approximately 350 media and entertainment reps attended to hear members of the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) tackle everything from machine learning to the latest advancements that are making the entertainment supply chain “smart.”

In a panel on how artificial intelligence and machine learning are impacting the media and entertainment sector, Josh Wiggins, chief commercial officer for GrayMeta, said that while there’s a lot of focus on the impacts of machine learning on the creative end of things, there’s potential for that type of AI to improve content distribution as well, specifically around search and recommendation.

His firm is working toward improving the automation side of metadata and content, to help media and entertainment companies get the most out of what they have. “Where we’re trying to use machine learning is to help create metadata more quickly,” he said. “[Metadata collection] doesn’t work if you have to keep throwing bodies at it.”

Michael Jeffrey, ‎VP of client engagement and partnerships for TiVo, said that automation doesn’t have to be perfect off the bat: sometimes a mistake, and accident among those putting things like machine learning to use, can create new insights. And, in general, he said, machine learning can prove especially beneficial in media and entertainment, helping discover nuances in content for overseas markets that a person may miss.

David Pearson, technical business development manager for the AI Services Team at Amazon Web Services, is of similar mind. He shared how things like Amazon Rekognition — an image recognition service powered by deep learning — can help developers automate the process of analyzing digital media libraries, no matter the size. And he made an observation: there’s a positive, circular impact when it comes to data collection and content.

“More data analytics gives us the ability to understand your products better,” he said. “Better products means more consumers, and that means more data.”

For Simon James, VP of sales engineering for NeuLion, put it simply: studios and networks are looking for solutions to improve their distribution plans, especially in today’s global, digital reality. “They’re looking for tools that help them acquire new users … and reduce any churn they might be seeing,” he said. “The right toolsets help clients not only access all the data available to them, but also make sense of it.”

The creation of a new, software-driven, cloud-based production data hub at New Regency — enabling creatives to work seamlessly on their productions — was highlighted in a discussion on the importance of new data hub solutions for film and TV.

Nancy Silver, principal solutions architect for MarkLogic (which is responsible for the New Regency solution) said the key to success with a data hub like New Regency’s is connecting the previously disparate data collection endeavors of different internal departments.

“All these systems aren’t talking to each other, these different silos with different data,” she said. “One of the great things about implementing a data hub is it serves as a foundation for so many different things” including residuals, product placement and more.

Jukka Paajanen, technology innovation lead for Avanade, sees data hub solutions like that as a sign of a larger change in the industry. “Now we’re seeing another big shift, where three, four years ago we wanted to put everything into a cell,” she said. “People are understanding the notion of this [and] it’s becoming more apparent to management that there’s value in this.

“It’s not just the pre-production and production side, it’s post and digital finding more value here.”

Still, part of what’s delaying media and entertainment companies from moving faster with these new data solutions — including with asset management — is the previous investments companies have made in legacy tech solutions, according to Matt Corodimas, with the media, entertainment and creative division of Nuxeo.

“There’s just a massive amount of technology debt in every company that just has to be taken care of before you can fly,” he said.

And when media and entertainment firms do look at asset management solutions, they need to consider what they’re trying to accomplish, according to Corinne Whitney, director of content services for Crawford Media Services.

“It’s really based on what your users need, and that needs to be the first, middle and last question,” she said. “Make sure the right kind of metadata is being captured, to look for the right monetization schemes.

“Metadata is always evolving and expanding.”

The conference was produced by the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA), with Ad-ID, the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement, the Hollywood IT Society (HITS) and the Smart Content Council serving as association partners. Conference sponsors included MarkLogic, Amazon Web Services, TiVo, GrayMeta, Microsoft Azure, Nuxeo, FilmTrack, NeuLion, Avanade and Crawford Media Services.