Never before — in the entire history of television broadcasting — have the challenges been greater for local television stations. Groups of stations must avoid duplicating content and control costs, while operating in a multi-content, multi-platform world. How do stations approach being competitive in today’s changing broadcast environment?
In a recent webinar titled “Managing Media in a ‘Multi-Multi’ Broadcast World,” representatives from Arvato, Quantum and Diversified addressed the challenges now facing broadcasters. They examined creation and distribution “hubs” so that groups of stations can collaborate on content while tailoring it for each market they are targeting.
The answers involve an interlocking combination of technology, defining workflows, intense planning and a large dose of common sense. The complexity of modern systems is beyond the experience level of any broadcaster — no matter how much experience in the business. Perhaps, the main advice from the experts at the webinar was to get professional help.
Elvind Sandstrand, North American business manager for Arvato Systems, advised station groups not to dive into the technology first, but to take a hard look at the workflow at their own businesses and learn what’s needed for longterm growth.
“Check where you are today, where you are going and plan for the future,” he advised. “Understand there are differences between solution ‘A’ and solution ‘B’ and don’t spend too much energy considering price points. You may be spending a lot of time in the future justifying your decision.
“Listen to the experts — the people who have done this before,” he said. “These systems will keep growing and changing as your business expands, so plan for that from the beginning.”
There is much to take into account when planning for a system that can accomodate a range of content from staffers, outsider vendors and even viewers themselves. The system should allow anyone, located anywhere to have access to and be able to work on the same content simultanously.
In a multi-source world, everything — including users, sites, formats, resolutions, files, IP networks and cloud-based systems — must be accounted for before even considering the technology. After the workflow is worked out, the next step is creation of a centralized, up-to-date enterprise-level media access system (MAM) tailored to do the customized tasks for the media organization.
MAM systems are essential in this multi-faceted production and distribution environment, said Sandstrand. They increase operational efficiencies, enable end-to-end automation of content creation-to-distribution workflows, and streamline workgroup collaboration across multiple locations, he said. MAMs also enable monetization of media assets.
Dave Frederick, senior director of media and entertainment for Quantum, said implementing a good archive strategy is essential. “Workflow-optimized storage is what’s needed in this multi, multi, multi world,” he said. “That’s the only way you are going to be able to afford to implement a system that handles content from beginning to end of the workflow.
“You must always keep your content at the best possible location to have the best price, the best access and the best performance,” Frederick said, explaining the differences between primary, archival, tape, private cloud and public cloud storage. The cost differences between the types of storage and having the content at the right place at the right time, he said, is essential to a cost-effective operation.
“Applications are king in the production space,” Frederick added. “Whether it’s a MAM, an editorial application or a color station, that’s where the rubber hits the road. It is important for vendors to be a strong supporter of the entire ecosystem. When a customer comes to us and says I want to use this combination of tools, we always have the answer ‘yes.’ Decide which tools are best for your goals and then make sure the infrastructure that you are building supports those tools. Nothing is worse than trying to shoehorn in a product that nobody wants to use or doesn’t achieve your goals.”
Josh Hatter, solutions consultant at Diversified, a provider of business solutions in software and hardware for its broadcast clients, is a 20 year veteran in helping media companies identify their specific needs and create custom workflows.
He said there are many ways for a broadcast group to know when they need to modernize their workflow systems. Among the most common, he said, is when a facility is still using file and folder structures to organize media files. Another is when a facility has multiple full-time editors and no central production storage. And still another is when staff members spend part of their day manually copying, ftp’ing or sneaker-netting media files.
Hatter takes a new client through the process of identifying needs for enterprise storage, asset management and workflow automation for today and in the future. He then documents the existing workflows and processes, tracks current “pain points” and looks at the business in the near and long term. From there, he establishes a deployment deadline.
All the experts agreed that station groups should only hire experienced, documented experts who have transitioned earlier clients to MAM and enterprise storage. These experts tend to become partners for the future. Do not expect them to just do the job and leave. The upgrades never end and most consultants continue to partner in the envolving business environment by making technology recommendations and assisting in the growth of storage and workflows.
Hatter suggested that station groups also talk to their internal experts, using advice from those who do the job on a daily basis. “But the day of the broadcast engineer who can do it all and fix any piece of hardware is over,” he added.
Hatter suggested that broadcast executives begin the process by going through the process of defining the goals for today and in future from a business perspective.
“Then you want to look at how you currently do business and how you currently use systems in production, distribution and acquisition,” he said. “Identify what processes that requires. You’ll unearth a lot as you do this and discover some amazing things.”
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