M&E Journal: Unlock the Power of Your Archive With Cloud-Based Asset Management
By Andy Hurt, Wazee Digital –
It used to be that broadcast and cable networks commissioned or created programming, pushed it out over the air, and then sent it to an archive, rarely to be seen again. Viewers tuned in faithfully at the appointed times every day or week to watch their favorite shows, and advertisers allocated their dollars accordingly. Everyone hummed along in a happy little ecosystem. Then came over-the-top (OTT) services and video on demand (VOD), throwing that ecosystem out of balance. And the media business hasn’t been the same since.
Consumers have gotten used to watching what they want, when they want, without being constrained by a broadcaster’s schedule. Demand for instant video streaming is on the rise, forcing broadcasters to rethink their linear distribution model in order to compete. And that means rethinking the way they store and access their content.
Archives (as we know them) are dead: For many years now, the workflow has gone this way: Someone produces a show, records it onto tape, and delivers that tape to the broadcaster. The broadcaster runs the tape through its MAM and playout systems for scheduling to air, after which the tape gets archived onto a shelf in a vault, where it sits indefinitely. Meanwhile, the content that has been digitized heads to its own storage area behind a firewall, where it languishes with little hope of being repurposed or remonetized in any meaningful way.
This practice is problematic for many reasons, not the least of which is that it’s painstakingly slow to locate a particular piece of video, if you can find it at all. For example, if you need to find broadcast-quality footage of a key moment from 10 years ago, sometimes the best hope is that someone on staff will remember where to find the tape, or at least which generation of tapes to look through. You might have to check a spreadsheet or, if you’re lucky, a physical asset management database based on FileMaker or Nesbit.
The original intent of an archive was to preserve content, not to make it easily accessible. That’s why all major media companies still do it this way. But this legacy workflow doesn’t allow the kind of speed and flexibility needed in today’s video distribution landscape, where VOD, OTT, social media, and 24-hour news applications call for immediate and easy access to a well-organized catalog of video — in both digital and broadcast quality, with the ability to accommodate any end device, from smartphones to HDTVs and beyond.
The days of content lying dormant in an archive behind a firewall are numbered. Now it’s all about making it searchable, discoverable, shareable, and monetizable.
A better way to do it
Many media companies are sitting on a goldmine of intellectual property. The bigger the archive gets, the greater the opportunity. If they can’t leverage that archive, then they’re leaving money on the table. That’s why more and more of them are looking for organized title-management as they shift from tape to digital.
The key is to employ a digitization strategy that moves the content outside of the firewall and into the cloud. Why? Because sharing content outside the firewall means more people will be able to find it — which means more opportunities to repurpose, distribute, and monetize it. Speed of access today is extremely important, especially in the case of breaking news. For example, if a prominent person dies or does something remarkable, you want news outlets to be able to access all relevant content in your archive, because the first relevant images to show up are the ones that get the lion’s share of the monetization and most of the eyeballs.
There was a time when the concept of third-party accessibility was unthinkable to media companies, but today they are looking at ways to improve their revenue streams, and one clear way is by repurposing legacy content. To make it happen, these companies are realizing that it pays to be a little less protective of their archives.
Less protective does not mean less secure. The best solutions put a company’s content and associated metadata into a managed framework in the cloud, where it is accessible on a global scale but still subject to all the security measures inherent in today’s cloud technology.
A cloud implementation is also a way of future-proofing an archive. Cloud-based services are continually updating their own technology, which means refresh costs are baked into the services, so media companies no longer have to worry about aging and depreciating legacy technology.
Finally, creating a repository in the cloud makes it much easier for content owners not only to make their content available to others, but to reuse that content themselves.
Case in point: Charlie Rose
One content owner who has put this media strategy into action is Charlie Rose, journalist and host of the “Charlie Rose” television series, an interview show born in 1991 and distributed nationally by PBS since 1993.
Rose is famous for interviewing the top names in politics, sports, entertainment, and business over the past 25 years, amassing more than 12,000 conversations in the process. It is a trove of rich and diverse content, with more being added all the time, and Rose wanted it to do more than sit in a vault.
To that end, Rose’s staff turned to Amazon Web Services and Wazee Digital to help digitize, transcribe, organize, store, make searchable, and make distributable more than 11,000 hours of interviews. The result of that 18-month-long effort was CharlieRose.com, a portal that features the entire history of the “Charlie Rose” show, including many iconic interviews that haven’t been seen since they first aired.
Anyone can browse the entire archive; search for specific guests, dates, and topics; watch clips or full episodes; and read full transcripts of each show.
Rose’s branding and web-development partners designed the outward-facing portal. On the back end, all master show files, ancillary documents, and associated metadata live on the Amazon Simple Storage Solution (Amazon S3) and Amazon Glacier services. Wazee Digital provides an ingest and management layer on top of the Amazon cloud storage, whereby new content is automatically ingested and directed to Amazon.
Wazee Digital also enables access to transcripts and interviews and powers the underlying search experience — all of which allows portal users to find and view the interviews they want quickly.
With this service architecture, not only can Charlie Rose satisfy increasing interest in his new and archival material, but he can be more agile in leveraging this content for himself. The possibilities for brand-building and monetization are virtually endless.
For example, Rose could create a branded mobile app with access to the entire show archive in a matter of weeks, if not days — something that could take months of planning and implementation for a company whose content was stored behind a firewall.
He could also power his social media experiences, such as YouTube channels or Facebook, from the portal. And he could quickly and easily create a retrospective or topic-specific episode by pulling in any bit of relevant content — such as interview footage with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates for a show about technology.
In terms of monetization, if he chose, Rose could use the portal as a sales vehicle, licensing his content to national or international broadcasters, VOD services, educators, documentarians, film studios, and more.
A media entity unto himself, Charlie Rose has demonstrated how media companies can overcome a trident of problems — managing a physical archive, managing a digital archive, and managing new content as it comes in — while making better use of the content they own. By employing a full digital strategy that took his content out of the vault and onto the web, Rose has a secure, future-proof means of leveraging his intellectual property in a much more meaningful way. It’s something that can only be achieved in a cloud-based implementation.
When media companies pair cloud storage with cloud-based asset- and rights-management services, they can create secure, sophisticated repositories that not only preserve their content for the long term, but make it easily available to both internal and external parties for use today.
In that way, media companies can get out of the archiving business and focus on what they know best: content. Once the cloud archive is in place, all they have to worry about is how best to repurpose the assets. And that’s a much better problem to have.