By Rob Gardos, CEO, Mediamorph –
Like any sophisticated problem, the content-explosion challenge is best understood by breaking down the component parts, from creation to consumption. We must first understand the confluence of forces that are impacting this ecosystem, and how they got us here.
The challenge: Over the past five years, consumers have embraced technological advances at unprecedented rates, enabling access to content from an increasing number of providers. This boom in content access has led to a shift in consumption volume and patterns.
For many millennials, “mobile first” is a way of life. Encouraged by access to a growing list of compelling programs, millennials are quick to discover and share digital content. Technological advancements, pervasive integrated apps and ubiquitous Wi-Fi have made mobile the bidirectional portal of choice.
The TV experience of Gen X and younger boomers has morphed as well. With the advent of compelling digital services like Netflix and YouTube, consumers are rethinking how they define TV, blending linear, VOD, OTT, SVOD and social, to match their diverse lifestyles and tastes.
MSO platforms are enhancing their multi-platform systems to support the content tsunami. According to Multichannel News, nearly 80 percent of MSOs expect to deliver average downstream speeds of 500 Mbps or more in 2018, driven by video consumption.
Fueling this explosion of demand and access is an ever-increasing flow of quality content from studios, networks and innovative new production outlets. 4K and virtual reality (VR) are emerging against an already complex ecosystem, and technology advances continue to drive consumption everywhere.
The explosion of content is partially due to increased access to series and full seasons of popular shows, long-tail content, and non-traditional types of content (short form, clips, webisodes, PRO UGC). Other contributors include:
* More business models — Free, TVOD, AVOD, SVOD, EST, live streaming, and integration of Netflix, YouTube and Hulu within operator platforms;
* More distribution channels in more formats — SD, HD, 3D, 4K, 8K, VR — enabled across a dizzying array of devices;
* More device types (STBs, IPTV, smart TVs, gaming consoles, tablets, pads, mobile phones);
* Ever-expanding storage capacity, and data speeds fueling infinite streaming systems. Unfortunately, the systems that currently process these waves of content are buckling under the pressure, often resulting in slips through the supply chain.
Content management risks
The ramifications of mismanaging content can be material and result in huge losses and breach of contract. For example, when the new Game of Thrones debuts on HBO, it is immediately available on hundreds of different on-demand platforms. Imagine if that same VOD file, destined for those platforms, incorrectly found its way into a workflow that was posted prior to a local territory’s scheduled airing. Not only would the storyline be spoiled, but the advertising model (including fast forward disabled C3), upon which the network relies, would be jeopardized.
How about the new release of a studio EST title, incorrectly keyed in at $1.99 (which is a valid price point at CableCo, just not for an EST title) instead of the intended $19.99 retail price? Who pays the studio the wholesale on a $1.99 retail transaction? What systems exist to track and manage this potential issue along the “multi-touch” content supply chain? Does the new Bambi title get mapped into the kids’ storefront, or does this version of Bambi belong in the mature-audience category, with parental controls?
The opportunity cost is equally confounding. When a new-release title misses its first airdate, the commercial impact is immediate, and in some cases devastating. By some estimates, 40 percent to 60 percent of the buys occur in just the first two days of a new-title release schedule, by which time your customer has already gone to a competitor.
Such errors persist because the editorial metadata is not linked to the technical metadata and the fulfillment workflow. Oftentimes, there is limited visibility into asset-state information, but global-processing and data-exchange issues occur regularly. They consume resources, create unneeded friction, and lead to dissatisfied customers. Meanwhile, content catalogs continue to expand, and devices and platforms further grow in number.
How can we prepare for these titanic challenges?
Today’s industry leaders are focusing on integrating robust, cloud-based solutions for a global marketplace that manage rights-aware content, and video preparation free of inefficiencies and unnecessary friction. We now have a dynamic marketplace of software and services integrated across the value chain that is equipped to scale up and down to handle content-fulfillment surges.
To bring about a change, our industry leaders must provide innovative solutions that bolster the leading standards bodies and drive more efficiency in the content supply chain. EIDR, EMA and other standards have reached a place in their evolution where adoption is thriving. According to Mark Fisher, president of Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA), “One of the fundamental components of automating and streamlining the digital supply chain is consistent, structured and accurate metadata about rights, assets and titles.”
The standards bodies also understand that even the best-designed standards and APIs require optimized integration with a host of partners. Integration does not just happen; it takes market insight, scoping expertise, purpose-built systems and, generally, a leap of imagination.
It takes robust enterprise software solutions that can trigger content-processing events, enable metadata enrichment, and report on content status throughout the supply-chain fulfillment process. It involves unleashing usage data to feed into forecasting systems and marketing engines on both sides of the content value chain.
To support that growth, the disparate supply-chain workflows that were built for a bygone era must become smarter, faster, and optimized to support the growth in data, merchandising options and content fulfillment. These bespoke workflows often have no awareness of the rights that govern the content under management; nor do they adapt to new platforms, like the introduction of X1 within a legacy MSO platform. To address that, powerful cloud-based enterprise software is being integrated deeply within MSO, studio and digital retailer platforms.
Intelligent orchestration layers are designed to interact with a multitude of ecosystem vendors to drive efficiencies, provide content supply chain visibility and enable data-based merchandising decisions. These next-gen software and data-service solutions are purpose-built, designed to manage complex multi-platform (multi-territory, multi-language, multi-currency, etc.) licensing and packaging arrangements. They provide the means to not only validate accurate use of content, but apply massive computing scale and rights-aware logic throughout the content supply chain. When fully functional, this solution will supercharge the interaction between best-of-breed ecosystem partners, increase the processing of time-sensitive data and materials, and enable validating inventory and storefront accuracy.
To meet the challenges of the coming content tsunami, three core components are required, for which planning should begin now: intelligent automation and management systems, deep-integration collaboration between vendors, and smart adoption of standards.
With the tides rising, more and more distributors and content partners are demanding greater control over and insight into an increasingly complex, multi-platform content supply chain. In support of studio, network, MSO and OTT customers, companies like Mediamorph have been iterating and integrating intelligent enterprise software systems and data services with ecosystem partners. We have designed and implemented scalable, elastic systems that coordinate data and content flow between those participants and align the specific right(s) applicable for that particular territory and distribution channel.
Our company believes that to win in the coming tsunami, the industry needs to embrace greater collaboration and integration across rights, financials, enriched metadata, and supply chain management systems, on a global basis. In doing so, participants in the ecosystem will expedite time-to-market, increase visibility and control, lower costs, foster merchandising and monetization opportunities, and reduce execution risk. Doing nothing is no longer an option. Lean in or you’ll be left out.