Media asset management solutions are a key requirement and challenge as well for contemporary broadcasters as they need to balance faster workflows with greater security and easier access
By BINDU GOPAL RAO
Business models for broadcasters are not what they used to be. Yesteryear’s broadcasters are today’s media companies or content owners, and their success depends on uncovering new opportunities and outlets for programming and maximising distribution. However, supporting these new outlets using technologies like media asset management (MAM) can be labour intensive and expensive. Over the years, MAM systems witnessed a great learning curve based on key broadcast technology landmarks and customer feedback.
Contrary to the one-shoe-that-fits-all-theory, the system has evolved to become customisable to suit the needs of individual users. “It is adept in resolving contemporary challenges faced by broadcasters, since at the very core, MAM offers flexibility, controlled collaborative organisation of content along with faster, easy and accessible productive workflows that integrate with third party systems. This enables media management from one source for a distributive network of other linked platforms,” explained Kulvinder Singh, VP, sales, SAARC, Aveco.
The industry, on the whole, has evolved following changes in viewership choices, preferences and viewing patterns. Today, the audience has, and demands, a multitude of variety, innovation and multitude of content across platforms. Therefore, a major concern that broadcasters had was whether their MAM systems could adhere to strict security protocols, a challenge that contemporary solutions have risen to.
“For decades, industry standards committees have been focused on developing a functional interoperability platform. SMPTE’s Interoperable Master Format (IMF) now provides a tried and tested media format, which allows media and entertainment companies to offer end-to-end IMF workflows that leverage IMF specifications without overloading processes with internal conversions or limitations in the content management structure,” added David Abel, sales director, Tedial.
Today, running a profitable TV channel is more difficult than ever and, the OTT phenomenon is keeping executives awake at night. Never before has there been such a pressing need for speed and reducing operating cost across the industry. As the number of original hours of content increases, so have the complexities in content operations including the number of versions, vendors, departments and staff involved. Moreover, for broadcasters with a wide international footprint, operations like Content Download, Compliance Editing, QC (Quality Control), Mastering and Archival are performed separately for each territory.
In the absence of centralization, there is no standardisation of business processes and no transparency of operations taking place across the global supply chain. “New-age cloud solutions like media ERP address these challenges by enabling broadcasters to automate not just within silos, but across the entire content supply chain. With end-to-end Work Order Management, pre-integrated with MAM, media ERP ushers in operational efficiencies like never before. It allows users to manage assets (with associated metadata and essences), resources (including internal, freelancers and thirrd party vendors), tasks (including generation, timeline estimation, scheduling, assignment etc.) and orchestration of content workflows all on ONE system. With in-built Business Process Management (BPM), such solutions automate file processing, and provide real time dashboards to track the status of all tasks conveniently from a single user interface,” said T Shobhana, VP, global head of marketing and communications, Prime Focus Technologies.
MAM has moved beyond the initial database and archiving solution that it had started out as. By 2015 forward thinking broadcasters recognised that workflow automation was the only way to address ever-increasing versioning and monetisation demands, and the most reliable way to manage workflow automation is through metadata driven workflows orchestrated by a modern
“The broadcast community expects Artificial Intelligence to be married to their media management tools and archive systems in clever ways to optimise labour resources, increase efficiencies and extend the viability of their programming investments globally,” said Abel. Today’s broadcasters require speed, flexibility and ease of use from their MAM, they need it to tie together and integrate the workflow from capture to production, management, and delivery of their programming. “With the ability bridge signal-based architecture with file-based workflow, and while delivering powerful automation, transcoding, and editing across single and multiple sites, today’s MAM has grown past being just a database for archiving assets. Even archiving is now an integrated workflow that can often include moving assets to the cloud,” explained David Schleifer, COO, Primestream.
The broadcasting industry has seen a tremendous change in media management, operational and automated workflows as well as distribution from one source to a multiplicity of screens and platforms. What one can clearly note is that in the present day the upsurge in viewership platforms is growing at accelerated pace directly proportionate to the corresponding demand of varied, quality content in line with the interplay of demographic and preferential factors that drive viewers’ content consumption.
“In the framework of the said dynamics MAM serves a critical component for the broadcaster from ingest to play-out and archiving it serves as a complete management solution that enables not just viewing and archiving but a robust yet flexible media management interface per say review, search, management, archiving, automated workflow operations, review, publish, enhance productivity, content security, minimise the scope of human error by virtue of automated processes, integration with other third party systems, distribution and deployment to digital and non-digital platforms,” said Singh.
Naturally CIOs and CTOs at broadcasting companies are using their MAM solutions to make their workflows more efficient. While users will pick systems for ease of use, executives will focus on user group task management and orchestration, automated ingest processes and distribution systems, and dashboard and reporting systems that allow CIOs and CTOs analysis of the key performance metrics for further refinement.
“Modern MAM systems are written in HTML and are browser-based and flexible tools that can be ‘skinned’ for each user group, hiding the complexity of the underlying integrated systems,” said Abel.
MAM systems have evolved to integrate sophisticated search features in the newsroom, especially with the exponential growth of content. Live events, up-to-the-minute news coverage and sports events require MAMs to provide multiple searches of the archive for relevant material at the same moment in time. Some have search protocols to support live event capture and live AI integration, including multi-camera capture systems and 360-degree video for VR production. With the growing complexities of multi-platform distribution, broadcasters can no longer rest on existing and independently functioning systems that result in ‘Islands of Automation’.
“The variety of technologies utilised to receive, prepare, QC and distribute content to thousands of locations presents an additional hurdle to operational efficiency. To achieve faster time to market with increased efficiencies, broadcasters need automation not just within their silos but across the entire content supply chain,” said Shobhana. When investigating a MAM, executives should analyse the BPM system which typically runs the human based workflows to ensure that it is not constricted by a ‘single-server’ design and scales across virtual servers and software systems. Unlimited scaling removes all impediments to increasing speed and provides smoother, more reliable access to users in remote areas.
As more assets of the broadcasters become increasingly cloud-based MAM solutions are now enabled to safeguard these with robust security protocols. Tedial, for instance, has deployments in public and private cloud implementations and our software leverages the cloud provider’s security as well as their own permissions and secure operations system parameters.
Broadcasters are finding this of less concern as they embrace the capabilities of the cloud for fast deployment and quick directional changes. With new formats, storage and delivery methods capturing and managing media has become more complex, to address these issues, Primestream has new technology enhancements that advance today’s media landscape through solutions for IP stream ingest, integrated review and approval, 4K/UHD end-to-end workflow, plus centralised configuration and an Xchange public APIs.
“On the flip side to the pros of cloud-based management there are real dangers that exist, the most widely debated of which is, security of the content, personal versus public accessibility protocols, failure of which would result in major leaks, which in turn would mean financial, economic, credibility and other business losses for the broadcaster. Another issue that lies unaddressed at large is the assurance of fair business practices, pricing, content access and recovery, legalities and other issues herein,” said Singh.
There is also a lot of automation that is absolutely necessary in contemporary MAM for newsroom, where a lot of work is done remotely. An automated ingest workflow that captures incoming stories or camera card inputs, tags the media with useful metadata and automatically routes the assets to either remote locations or to user task assignment is critical for today’s operations. Newsroom setups are more complex and fast paced than those of other kinds of productions.
The need for quick real time response, accuracy of processes and changing scenario makes it difficult to constrict the workflows into standard pre-defined processes, thus leaving no room for repetition or error for that matter. Schleifer explained, “The type of automation that is critical for MAM based solutions is often built around business rules and logical instantiation of the workflow in the installed modules, components, and integration. The power of scripting is often how the customer’s requirements are automated to deliver invisible and seamless results.”
In Tune with the Times
Most of the MAM solutions in conventional newsrooms were deployed several years ago. Naturally, there are several reinstallation or revitalising opportunities that lie within for solution providers. The older technology does not use AI or apply it to better storytelling and live event processing, nor does it offer a platform for that option in the future.
“The older systems did not integrate with many of today’s modern third-party tools such as HDR processing and automatic ‘speech-to-text’ systems for subtitling and translations on the fly, and most important, today’s MAM software is optimised for virtual deployments, including cloud infrastructure, allowing an upgrade to reduce costs, reduce labour, increase speed and automation, and use less bandwidth for delivery,” said Abel.
The first generation MAM installations were very focused on making sure broadcasters did not lose their media assers. This new generation of solutions can enable new workflows that can make or break an installation. Whether it is multi-format publishing, enabling site to site collaboration, lifecycle management, or maximizing asset re-use, the MAM is now central to moving the business model forward.The three primary fundamental issues with traditional MAM solutions – costly infrastructure, poor automation across content supply chain and lack of enterprise-wide adoption – the future of media assets seems certainly well managed.