Home Analysis Why the TV industry badly needs to modernise the content distribution workflow...

Why the TV industry badly needs to modernise the content distribution workflow – and how to do it

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The migration to multiplatform TV has given consumers everything they could dream of, in terms of convenience, but has created a list of challenges for content owners and distributors which, together, are straining the fabric of the television industry. The number of endpoints you have to serve has exploded. Workflow processes have been duplicated, creating what some consider to be unsustainable inefficiencies and overhead. Rights management has become fragmented.

Rights owners lack visibility about how their content is being used at a time when they are being forced to invest more in commissioning or acquiring content. The reliance on trust means they have to be careful who they hand their content to, potentially missing out on distribution deals with new partners. Where usage data is returned, it is a complex process that burdens both the servicer provider (distributor) and the content owner.

As the new Videonet report, ‘Re-imagining content distribution workflow for the video industry’ makes clear, multiplatform TV is making rights negotiations harder and longer. It also comes with security vulnerabilities wherever content is decrypted and re-encrypted for processing, most notably when content is transcoded. The report explores the many challenges facing content owners and service providers in this environment and proposes a completely new approach to how the content-to-consumer value chain is organised, thus the bold title about ‘re-imagining’ rather than just evolving.

To summarise the opportunity outlined in this report, it is to render the flow of content and information between stakeholders in a more secure, efficient and nimble manner, to create a collaborative and transparent environment that removes barriers between content and global consumers and, to put it bluntly, modernise the content distribution model.

Central to the proposition is that content providers and video service operators are connected via a common cloud platform, and Verimatrix has taken a lead position in making this happen with its Viewthority solution, a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) based on the AWS infrastructure and AWS Elemental Media Services video workflow. This centralises and streamlines management and control of contract terms, distribution windows, playback policies and business rules using a defined rights management interface, which has been integrated with the Mediamorph Content Value Management Platform.

Both content provider and service provider can set up video workflows quickly and avoid duplicate processes, instead tapping into massive economies of scale. Using this model, content will be encoded once, packaged once and encrypted once (using Common Encryption).

“For operators, this platform saves the cost of having to re-encode and re-encrypt. By encrypting content once with decryption keys and playback policies distributed separately and securely for final end-device playout, such a system would improve distribution efficiency,” the report notes.

One of the key points of friction that this new model smoothes is contract compliance and the efficiency with which the industry can demonstrate compliance. As the report notes, it is necessary that everyone adheres to rules about content exploitation windows, and that they police the number of views each customer is allowed (known as ‘playback policies’). It is expected that output controls, and viewing offline as well as online, is all monitored. And then these controls must be reported back to the content owner.

The Viewthority model supports real-time analytics and streamlined reporting as the basis for compliance and also as the basis for better marketing intelligence at the content owner. By doing so, it makes it possible to realign the relationship between buyers and sellers of content. As one commentator points out: “There’s no ambiguity. It is clear to the content owner exactly what a distribution partner has agreed to and whether those agreements have been met.”

Importantly, the new levels of trust that become possible do not come at a price in terms of administration. Quite the opposite, in fact: the process of demonstrating compliance is greatly streamlined, which is one of the key benefits outlined in the new report.

“In legacy workflows there is a gap between the communications of contractual rights management (about the windows and geographies or level of security and commercial terms associated with the content) from back office systems down to the marketplace,” the 16-page document explains. “There is a further gap in that the communications of those policies and rights down to the operator has historically been by Excel or some of other form of written document.

“Operators have to diligently apply those rights and distribution windows to the end devices. However, the exchange of data is completely disjointed between parties in the supply chain. Traditional rights systems cannot handle this operational flow without heavy ‘hacks’ and manual intervention.”

With the new approach, content and service providers can develop a common, consistent and automated way of sending and viewing information back to the content owner. As the report makes clear, the complexities in the current rights management and compliance processes, as with the video workflow, are limiting innovation and ultimately business opportunities.

Take video processing first. “With thousands of licenses around the world, the capacity of content providers to process and deliver content to distribution partners is squeezed. Imagine performing variants on every video in every market, and everyone expecting it tomorrow,” the new report says.

“Operators, in turn, are understandably dismayed when, on deal completion, they learn it might take eight months or more to actually receive and activate the content. They want content to be fluid and manageable. Being able to easily curate and select content and spontaneously react to the market is essential to operator success.”

And on the question of rights: “Operators need quick access to content and better rights usage to be able to scale. Content owners need to retain full control over rights usage with the agility to be able to change them on an ad-hoc basis and adapt to market forces.

“Yet today, contractual content distribution rights are difficult to administer, measure and police. They are not enforced in any digital or cryptographic way. They do not enable just-in-time adjustment to market demand. Content providers are unable to reach their full market potential because of the challenges to establish relationships with Tier-2 and Tier-3 operators.”

As the report makes clear, we need more than streamlined video workflows; the market needs to simplify business negotiations as well, which needs a more efficient market for rights.

Key opportunities, when the legacy rights and distribution barriers are removed, are to work with more partners and for them to monetise content more effectively. “Operators can quickly find the assets they want and can push those assets into their user interface. The user can buy or view it, and payments and analytics data of the transaction usage are reported back to both the operator and content owner. Essentially the process can be seamless and in near real-time,” the report makes clear.

It is noted that the road to success involves adaptive, data-driven content strategies with flexible pricing and positioning to meet evolving consumption habits and exploit new opportunities. Agility is clearly key, if you want to maximise the value of content.

The challenges in video processing and workflows are well known, from the addition of multiscreen in what is sometimes a parallel and siloed activity to the time lags getting content into the digital domain after traditional broadcast. This report makes clear how the interrelated challenges of content security and content rights management need to be updated as well, and provides a clear proposal for how all three functions can be tackled simultaneously.

The new technologies, workflow architecture and vendor collaborations that make the “re-imagining” of the video workflow possible are outlined in the report. Experts from Swisscom, TCC Uruguay, Verimatrix, AWS Elemental, Rethink Technology Research, tvstrategies, Mediamorph, Minerva Networks and others give their views on the current challenges, the solution and its potential impact.

You can download the new Videonet report, which is authored by Adrian Pennington, here.

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