Over the last number of years there has be a real shift towards VOD within the broadcast and content delivery industries – and its evolution has been rapid. This has largely been consumer driven, with viewers wanting to watch the content they choose when, where and how they want. Many broadcasters have been keen to embrace VOD, not only to ensure they maintain market share, but also due to its potential to offer a new revenue stream or method of further monetising their inventory.
With the rush to deliver these services and provide consumers with an engaging experience when using them, broadcasters and content providers, understandably, didn’t really focus on the management of the content and content catalogues they provided – often relying on multiple, manually administered excel spreadsheets.
Through our on-going trade show attendance, alongside our continuous discussions with clients and partners, we identified that with the rapid evolution of this service type there was a need for;
- Greater flexibility in the collation of content catalogues
- A less labour intensive workflow with reduced data overheads
- Robust validation
- The ability for the traditional broadcasters to better integrate these services with their core business.
While businesses and end users recognised that their current processes were no longer suitable and often weren’t working, they were unsure as to exactly what they wanted and needed. So, taking into account everything we had learned, we got to work prototyping a series of toolsets to address these problems.
While our Research and Development path is highly client driven, it is also heavily industry informed. Our R&D team are constantly reviewing feedback and industry trends while also keeping abreast of new concepts and technologies in order to create the best possible solutions.
At MSA Focus we often develop new features and concepts through loosely specified, evolutionary, fast-prototyping methods. This allows us to get core concepts and functionality in place quickly, which we can then demonstrate to partners and clients through various workshops and forums. This direct feedback and discussion informs the next stages of development as initial concepts evolve and move into more formalised product, module or feature development processes.
We pride ourselves on working with an open mind and listening to the requirements of our customers in order to adapt and evolve our products for greatest benefit.
What we did
We quickly identified that the core issues for both traditional broadcasters, whose resources and skilled staff are already overstretched managing their core business, and new entrants to the industry who have none of those resources or skilled staff; were around the placement of large amounts of content into a single catalogue and ensuring its validity with minimal manual intervention, alongside the ability to then manage those catalogues easily.
It was clear that alongside some automated processes driven by intelligent logic, a dedicated interface was needed to provide a clear and meaningful view of multiple VOD catalogues, while also offering tools for their manual manipulation and finalisation.
We started with a single non-linear “content view” offering a grid listing with associated Gantt Chart representation of all included content, alongside access to an “amend” form to allow manual adjustment of both availability and associated meta-data. This was fully integrated into our core asset management library modules, using rights-based logic to auto-populate availability catalogues, based on defined programming windows and content availability. With all appropriate meta-data also being automatically populated against each catalogued instance from the underlying library asset record.
“This type of approach was very well-received right from the outset, as it immediately slashed the overheads associated with creating catalogues, and freed up content planners to actually plan and be creative with their VOD catalogues.”
Martin Long, Operations Director
On the back of such positive feedback, the solution was quickly expanded to include the ability to; update and reset the catalogue, manually add and remove programming content, stack episodes based on re-usable patterns, auto-assign main-event and preview media and manage basic promotion inventory as well as secondary event content. Further visual elements were also added to help identify programmes that may need attention and to allow catalogue contents to be grouped, filtered and re-ordered to provide quick “on-line” overviews of the balance of content. All of this was then fully integrated with a comprehensive and configurable validation suite.
Since these initial developments, we have continued to expand the concept and can now also offer non-linear ad-sales support with auto break and commercial content placement routines, as well as flexible linear integration for the provision of catch-up content – all contributing to a varied toolset aimed at empowering our clients to achieve their goals.
A key focus throughout the development was that, although fully integrated with our wider broadcast management solution, this dedicated non-linear module should be easy to interface to/from and flexible and configurable enough to be used for all types of non-linear service provision; be that a simple transfer of programme data for an OTT sVOD platform, or fully managed programme blocks, inclusive of breaks and all commercial / promotional content for a commercial broadcaster.
As the world of VOD continues to expand we continue to evolve and advance our non-linear offerings.
The roadshows, round-table forums and system demonstrations that we provide allow us the opportunity to liaise with existing and potential clients and gather feedback on industry requirements – this continues to drive the R&D path and helps to ensure that our non-linear module benefits from the latest ideas, designs and concepts, something which is very important to us.
“Regarding non-linear, it feels as if historically there may have been a slight hesitance in some areas of the industry to move forward – possibly due to a lack of understanding or certainty of how best to get the desired results. For example, there were often discussions on having ratings for what was viewed via non-linear platforms, yet few of our clients had or have access to this kind of information. It’s the larger players that are leading the way and for a while it seemed as though the smaller providers were waiting and watching before choosing the direction they wanted to go in.”
Martin Long, Operations Director
MSA Focus have always worked with both large and small broadcasters, and as such can tailor our solutions to suit the requirements of either. So, while offering the ability to handle a large content output with increased complexity, we can also enable clients with less significant requirements to get exacting results, safe in the knowledge that the solution will cope should they grow in size, complexity and/or diversity.
VOD, non-linear, on-demand or however you wish to refer to it, is not a flash in the pan and it will be interesting to see how it continues to evolve over the coming years. Our focus remains with the continued development and evolution of solutions to meet the needs of the industry, based on client feedback and the trends of an ever-changing content delivery landscape.
We are always listening, we are always evolving, and we are always developing!