Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Channel 4 Changes Direction

It seems apparent that Channel 4 has decided that it prefers becoming a commercial entity in London rather than being sent to Manchester or Birmingham as a public broadcster.

The channel, paying £25m for a programme format, sans presenter, in a bidding war with the UK's other PBS shows how out of control it is.

Channel 4 has always been a rather wonderful freak show that could only exist in the creative hotpot that is the UK. It has played a hugely important role in fostering creativity and programme making and has always been in the vanguard of TV innovation.

But paying £25m for the UK's most popular TV programme, a baking competition of all things, is insane. (As an aside I can just imagine someone in the past recent taking this format to C4; the laughter would still be resounding..l)

In the world of Netflix and You Tube, where UK TV is becoming a marginal activity, Channel 4 seems an anachronism - albeit less so than the riddiclous and still hugely self important BBC.

TV distribution (aka broadcasting) is now a big boys game which only the Americas can afford. There is a chink for an international play around top UK programme making, but 350 million people are always going to trump 60 million.

So, can Channel 4 take its brand international? It certainty has shown no innovation online (it doesn't even simulcast).  But it has done well with curation of international box sets and, of course, in its commissioning.

However, I'm not sure that anyone involved in Channel 4 really understands what they have done or what will happen to them next. Did they really deliberately overplay their hand ?

Twitter Does Video ? Please...

So, a company dedicated to sending messages in 140 spaces now wants to "do video". Twitter is a laughable company living up to its name. Just a bunch of Twits.

There is huge value in Twitter around instant news, short disclosures, weather, travel. But instead of concentrating and honing this, they decide to go after video.

Video doesn't take a few bytes, it takes thousands of millions of bytes. It is an antithesis to everything this company is supposed to stand for.

Twitter has totally lost its way in trying to become Facebook and urgently needs new management and vision.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

The Increasing Importance Of Metadata

When I went for my first job interview the only real test I was given was to write a title on the side of a 35mm film can to see if I could do so legibly. As someone who had just graduated with honours degrees in film&tv and educational broadcasting I was insulted.

Now, over thirty years on, I realise how important a lesson I learnt that day and how important metadata was, and still is, in the film and TV industry. Indeed, being able to write on the side of a film can doesn't cut it any more.

Only a decade ago, I went to a meeting with one of Europe's largest broadcasters to talk about digitisation of their library, only to find that their master broadcast tapes were all logged in a school exercise book, often in pencil, with little more than the title, series, episode and transmission date.

Of course, metadata has come a long way in the recent past and its importance is increasing immeasurably in the information age.

Once upon a time all the information you needed was available from a cinema billboard. Today you need to worry about everything from the container format and codec for the video file to the rights position of contributing artists. As metadata requirements have ballooned, the problem of data input has increased.

Let's face it, someone has to enter all that data in the first place - and keep it up to date and it is becoming a burgeoning problem.

So, what can be done ? 

Well the obvious first step is to decide how and where the metadata should be stored. 

An effective way of doing this is to set up a project container where key information and all subsequent information and assets can be stored. The problem with many such systems is that they are either informal and unstructured (think of a folder on Box or Dropbox) and lack specific functions required by the film and TV industry, or that they are too restricted. For example, many asset management systems are very poor at managing elements such as royalties and rights.

To address this we have developed a core system called Assetry that combines both asset and rights metadata and can also plug into existing systems such as scheduling and OTT systems. 

A key challenge was to make the system as automated as possible whilst dealing with both technical and descriptive metadata. Technical metadata, for example, is automatically stripped from master files and scene and voice recognition software can also be integrated to automate rushes processing.

But this does not negate the need for human involvement totally. 

Production information and also contractual information need inputting by humans (at least for the time being). This is why it is essential to build the metadata capturing process into the production process from start to end, or from when an idea is conceived to when the programming is sold and distributed.

The cloud is producing fantastic tools to make life easier and cheaper for film and TV producers, but, thankfully, the need for sentient humans is unlikely to go away any time soon. However, a centralised cloud based metadata platform does open up the ability to offshore or crowdsource logging and streamline the distribution of metadata and assets.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

How NOT To Be Like Warner Bros and Track Your Rights

Image result for warner bros

If ever there was a story that shows how complex rights have become to manage in the internet era, it's the revelation that Warner Bros has requested a take down on its own website. In other words they have asked Google and others to blacklist it because it is carrying pirated content. To be fair to Warner Bros, we hear similar stories about other rights holders on a regular basis.

More than anything, this shows how complex rights have become to manage, and it doesn't just affect large multinationals, it's relevant to most companies across a wide range of sectors. Anyone who uses images, video, illustrations, quotations, code or music in any of their sales or marketing activities, for example.

Close to home, for example, we regularly undertake an audit of the components, shareware and paid for software we use in building our platform. At the last count it was fifty two different licences that need tracking. Some are open source today, but who says that they will be tomorrow ? The terms and conditions lie behind a tickbox - the kind that we all glibly agree to without considering the consequences.

The possible consequences are dire. Marketing and ad agencies can loose clients, financial and pharma companies may not be compliant and broadcasters could be in breach of contracts.

The situation is such that last year Rights Tracker was approached by one of the world's largest companies to help their in house legal team keep track of the rights their company was acquiring across the globe.

In response, and using our core Assetry platform, we developed a new platform for managing acquired rights. Not only does it enable licensing terms to be recorded and tracked, but, if available in digital form, the actual assets can also be stored.

The result is that it is easy to run searches and produce reports detailing the actual rights position at any time. As well as making sure that companies don't get themselves into the pickle that Warner Bros are in, users can also save money by re-using existing assets and licences rather than paying for new ones.

The team at Rights Tracker is about to roll our a beta program for the new product, so get in touch if you'd like to track your assets, licences and rights.

That's all folks!

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Are Apps Dying ?

Apps have been IT for the past few years. Everyone needed an app for everything. But recently I've been seeing a recalcitrance. UK DIY co Homebase dropped their app and sent users to their website. Accounting unicorn Xero's app is a joke (they clearly don't care). The increasing attitude seems to be, 'we will make our website responsive, use this'.

And it's true that there's hardly anything that you now can't do in a web or hybrid app, and you may well skirt the dogma of the Apple Store and, to a lesser degree, the Android Store.

This is really, really bad news for Apple who make billions from this channel, but the trouble is, with millions of apps, only a couple of hundred (usually games) get noticed, so investing in developing apps is pointless. Just send users to your mobile friendly website...

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Trouble With Transmission

As a youngster I remember climbing the mountain behind our house and being part of a relay trying to get a signal, via various boosters and a very long aerial line, from the nearest transmission towers, which were seven and twelve miles away.

You see, the problem with TV broadcast signals is that they require 'line of sight' and operate at reasonably high frequencies, so the signals can't get around corners.

In the Western fringes of Snowdonia we grew up listening and watching RTE, the Irish broadcaster, and not BBC as a result.

Today I'm in Reading in the heart of the industrialised South East of England, the so called UK Sicilon Valley, just a few hundred yards from the headquarters of Microsoft and Oracle and my broadband has died.

Once a year over a hundred thousand people descend on Reading for a rock festival. The problem at the moment is that they are all millennials, so wouldn't dream of worrying about line of sight for their TV signal.

My issue is that, in the largest town in England, I cannot get a signal from a broadcast tower, due to a seven storey residential tower block to the south east of our riverside house. As a result, I am also a cord cutter, like the millennials. And now I cannot get a decent broadband feed.

The other problem with traditional broadcasting - digital or analogue - is that it involves equipment which looks like the molten carcass of an ancient monster. TV aerials are ridiculous contraptions. The broadcast towers equally so.

All of this leads me to wonder why the technology developed by the defunct Aereo could not be combined with software that detects video streams in a device with an automatic rollover between the broadcast and IPTV?

In other words, why can't a computer detect when a broadcast signal makes more sense and allows a device to connect accordingly?

Around ten yeras ago I proposed a similar system that rolled over between cable and internet to my clients at Virgin Media and they still haven't really cottoned on.

The trouble with technology is that everyone ploughs their own technical furrows and fields and forgets to look left or right at how they could share, improve and work better.

But, hybrid transmission is an idea whose time has come...

Escaping The YouTube Trap

Let's face it, YouTube provides a great service for video producers and program makers - a free uploading and hosting service for all your videos with a ready global audience.

So why are more and more TV and video professionals turning away from the service ?

Well, the reasons are manifold.

Some will read the fine print and realize that they are compromising productions that they may have spent a great deal of money producing.

Others will realize that they are espousing valuable money making opportunities.

More and more are realizing that YouTube is a horribly cluttered environment that may have its role, but it is not a solution for online video management.

As other social networks such as Facebook become equally important for video,  then there's a need to look beyond YouTube.

Also, as more and more video professionals look to manage their productions and services in the cloud, YouTube is clearly not a platform to use for this.

As YouTube gets closer and closer to being a broadcaster, there is a clear conflict in giving content to them for free (or for the promise of ever reducing ad revenues).

But what if you already have a load of content on YouTube ? Well, Rights Tracker has just introduced an easy way for you to transfer this content to your own professional managed account on Assetry Screen, where you will have secure control over all of your content.

All you have to do is enter a YouTube URL and the system will do the rest for you! Better still, you can add any valid video URL and the system will ingest and prepare your video for you.

It's never been easier to cut the YouTube cord and move your cloud video strategy to the next level.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

A Gold Medal For Rights

With the 2016 Olympics in full flow, perhaps the most tightly guarded rights in the world come into mainstream play.

The IOC is, above all, a rights holder, and therefore needs to keep a tight rein on how it allows its rights to be used in the era of social media.

It has issued extensive guidelines, which start with the words: "the IOC actively encourages and supports athletes and other accredited persons at the Olympic Games to take part in 'social media'."

It then goes on to issue four pages of restrictions on this 'encouragement':

Still, to be fair to the IOC, they have made their position public and clear.

Of course, managing and enforcing these rights is tougher and the IOC enforce something called penumberal rights. These include the five Olympic rings logo, the Olympics motto of Citius, Altius, Fortius, the Paralympic Agitos logo, the flames and terms like "Olympic games", "Paralympic games"' "Rio 2016" as well as "games”, “Two Thousand and Sixteen”, “2016” and “twenty sixteen”) and a second group (“gold”, “silver”, “bronze”, “Rio”, “medals”, “sponsor”, and “summer”.

The above enable the IOC's representatives to threaten civil and even criminal sanctions on anyone they deem to be in contravention. At London 2012 these included a butcher near the sailing venue who had fashioned sausages into the form of the Olympic rings and a long established cafe called the Olympic near the main stadium in East London.

However, even a cursory search of social media shows their guidelines being breached in a wholesale manner. DMCA provisions mean that a lot of illegal material can hit the internet legally. But, the IOC are doing one thing right in response - they are flooding social media with official content.

Managing rights isn't just about being protective in the social media era, it's about being proactive. The internet hates a vacuum, so just withholding and restricting rights no longer works. 

So, on rights, a gold medal to the IOC, then, for a job well done.

Monday, August 01, 2016

A New Way Of Selling TV

In most industries, the internet has brought huge efficiencies and, sometimes a new world order. From travel agents to record stores, the effects have been sweeping, and are still going on for industries like taxis and hotel rooms.

But the TV industry seems not to have noticed. Well, not much anyway. Massive new customers have appeared for programme makers in the form of Netflix, Amazon and other online streaming services. But the selling is still largely done by personal contact at events such as Cannes, NATPE, MIPTV and MIPCOM.

But the time has come for this to change. 

The internet has proven itself to be an effective means of showing high quality video and for building global marketplaces.

Finally, there's a platform that combines these capabilities, providing a global marketplace for content owners and producers.

Assetry Screen from rights management experts Rights Tracker provides an easy to use platform for preparing, managing and distributing content to potential clients in a closed and highly secure online marketplace.

It enables content owners to create video websites, online screening rooms, players and branded channels. Distributors, producers and broadcasters can upload and manage assets, create screening lists, set permissions, and invite contacts to view.

The TV content industry is going to experience a revolution over the next few years and Assetry Screen enables content owners and producers to get ahead of the curve.