M&E Journal: What is Smart Content? (And why should you care?)

By Guy Finley, Executive Director, MESA
From M&E Journal Winter 2014-15

What is Smart Content and why should you care? This was the opening comment I posed to a recent assembly of studio executives in Hollywood who, quite honestly, stared at me blankly in response. The conversation started to pick up momentum, however, when I talked about how we (MESA and its membership) have been involved in the entertainment/data conversation for quite some time and how:

1) Discussions have taken place in a variety of business units within the studios and hand-off points to vendors in the evolving entertainment supply chain.

2) The advancement of metadata is a slow but steady process that seems to have gotten its biggest boost at the distribution end of the supply chain but needs to move further upstream to production, or even idea inception.

3) Other parties beyond IT, supply chain and security need to get involved in the conversation. Production software/tools, marketing, change management and business process leaders all need to get involved.

4) Once you’ve got everyone’s attention, there is the statement that appeals to every corporate CFO, “We can use metadata to eliminate waste, inefficiencies and run a smarter, more profitable business.”

This dialog was the catalyst and we arrived at a name for it all: Smart Content.

Smart Content is a new term that applies to what we used to call the “digital” supply chain and how machines/data/artificial intelligence will impact business processes moving forward….how data, metadata and identifiers are being embedded…how tracking and recognition software are being written and coded…how storage and archives are using new tools to become auto-recognized, logged and classified…and how our industry will utilize and store the tremendous amount of user feedback, once our media & entertainment products have been delivered into the consumer’s devices/living rooms/ ecosystems.

In essence, Smart Content is enabling a brave new era for companies that are now able to leverage new content intelligence tools to streamline their productions and supply chains, while gaining unprecedented marketing data and analytics about how their content is being consumed.
The cultivation of Smart Content needs to span the content lifecycle from beginning to end or, as I prefer to say it, from “inception to infinity” because we don’t know what’s coming next down the distribution pipeline. (Movies for iWatch anyone?)

Though we can no longer identify the end of the supply chain (infinity), we at least know where it begins (inception). Smart Content workflows need to begin at the earliest phase.

Silos are eroding in today’s advanced digital workflows – and increased collaboration and access is breaking down traditional barriers between business units. Nowhere is this more evident than in distribution. In the ‘good old days’ we only had to (physically) get the films into movie theaters and through home entertainment distribution…and now we have online video, which is growing the complexity of the process in scope and breadth:
– Where and when is the content being made available?
– Where and when is it being watched?
– How are we are going to generate the most money on these assets?
– How are we going to grow consumer reach on all platforms?

Guy Finley is Executive Director of MESA and the 2nd Screen Society.