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  • Writer's pictureDavid Shapiro

Selecting a Broadcast Business Data Management System

Almost everywhere you turn today you hear about the importance of your broadcasting data and metadata and how it can help elevate your revenue, a statement I fully support. In today’s information age, especially now with AI solutions providing more and more information, metadata plays an essential role in giving your viewers, be it through linear or non-linear delivery, a more user-friendly, smooth and informative viewing experience. Not only your viewers and subscribers can benefit from rich metadata. Managed correctly, it can help streamline your business workflows, increase efficiency, reduce operational cost and give you business insights that can considerably contribute to your organisation. There is a large number of systems out there today that manages data and metadata in some form or another. Some offer extensive data management capabilities, while others may only support managing the bare minimum of information to get the job done. See the end of this article for a short list of systems that help you to control your data. If you feel that your metadata and business information management is insufficient, that you are keying in the same information into multiple systems, or you are using too many glorified Excel spreadsheets, you should have one of these types of software systems on your ‘to-do’ list. You may already be seeking to implement such a system which is excellent. In any case, here are a few tips you should consider when making your selection. Cover as many areas as possible If you do not already have a single system managing your data, all running off the one data set, then you should seriously think about this direction. Yes. The project will be more complex, will take longer and will be more expensive, but if managed properly, the benefits are many. Apart from all of the users working off the same data which has considerable benefits in itself, you will be eliminating a lot of your integration issues, will be reducing the number of vendors you work with and maintenance costs, as well as increasing overall efficiency of your business processes. People will argue that it is always best to take the best-of-breed of different systems and integrate through direct interfaces or ESB (Enterprise Service Bus), but my experience in this field has proven otherwise. A lot more can be said about this, but we will leave it at this. Good requirement coverage Well, this goes without saying... or does it? Over the years, I have seen broadcasters time and time again select a system that on paper looks great, is used by many companies within the industry, or simply has a good name. All of these parameters are important, but when the system was installed onsite, suddenly a gap between the business requirements and actual capabilities was found, meaning that the system implementation was delayed for several months, in best cases, for the vendor to make the necessary customisation. When selecting a system, make really sure that it will support your business and operational workflow requirements, which can only be achieved through a precise, low-level requirements gathering process. This is crucial to the success of the project. However, regardless of the system selected, you are almost always going to need some level of customisation, which leads us to the next point. User-Friendly customisation Whichever system you are implementing, you are most likely to need some level of customisation, depending on the size of your organisation. Even if you do not have any change requests at present, it is almost certain you will need some to support future needs. When choosing a system, ensure that it is easy to make the required changes. Some systems allow administrators to add fields with ease to the current screens, sometimes just with the click of a mouse. Some will need a certain level of coding and scripting, while customisation to the rest can only be made by the vendor. Take this into careful consideration, especially as changes made by the vendor are not just expensive and take longer to be delivered, and the value of these changes will be added to the overall project cost when calculating annual support and maintenance costs. Workflow Management

Capturing data is essential as we know; however, you should always take this to the next level. You must also strive to use your data for powering workflows. When looking for a new system, ensure that it not only supports your workflows but will also help you to streamline them. Action triggers, email notifications, job list, task flagging etc. should all be taken into careful consideration when making your selection.You may also be already using or considering on using a third-party workflow engine. Make sure that the selected data management system can be easily integrated with it to Reporting and Analytics Even though you think you have your reporting requirements carefully mapped out, you will very quickly discover that more and more reports will be required over time. This is on top of necessary modifications to existing reports. Ensure that you select a system that has a robust reporting tool which allows you to easily create and modify reports without having to depend on the vendor. Of course, the creation of reports will require a certain level of understanding of the data schema of the system, as well as expertise on the part of the administrator or in-house developer. However, bear in mind that internally developing or changing your reports costs a fraction of the price of commissioning the vendor to do so, and can be carried out in hardly any time at all. Configurable API Architecture As mentioned at the beginning of this article, metadata is becoming more and more vital to the services you deliver, as is the importance of maintaining a steady metadata flow between all the different systems in the organisation. Any system you implement will need to be able to communicate and interface with other, 3rd-party systems. It is therefore imperative that you choose a system that offers configurable API capabilities, allowing you to manage the interface messaging on an administrative level, making necessary amendments and fine-tuning when required, without having to always rely on the vendor. As with the reporting, making interface changes by yourself costs nothing, and can be turned around in minimal time. As already pointed out, one of the most important aspects when selecting a metadata system is that it should fully meet your current and future business needs and requirements. There are of course many more non-functional aspects of the system that need to be taken into careful consideration, for example, architecture, hardware requirements, required software and so on. However, from my experience, the four factors discussed are the ones where broadcasters taking on metadata management systems tend to struggle with the most and are, in many cases, not carefully assessed during the procurement process.


A short list of the most commonly used systems referred to in this article can include: Channel Management Systems (aka. Broadcast Management Systems) – These types of systems offer rich metadata capabilities and allow you to manage your entire, end-to-end business workflows. From Acquisitions to Programming, through Promotion Management and Airtime Sales, ending up in extensive scheduling and playlist capabilities. Media Asset Management (MAM) – Most broadcasters today have either gone or are in the process of going tapeless. A MAM system helps to manage the vast amount of digital media assets, as well as take care of necessary media workflows and delivery. All of these systems come with a certain amount of metadata, but do not, however, offer business-related functionally of scheduling capacities (except for maybe a few that do support these areas on a limited scale). Non-Linear Management systems (OTT, VOD, Streaming, etc.) - These systems are like channel management systems in that they manage the business workflows, but only for non-linear services (VOD, OTT, IPTV). Many of these systems also offer media asset management capabilities in one form or another, as well as content delivery. Rights Management - A rights management system helps you take control of the ever increasing complexity of your broadcasting rights, for both acquired and sold content, across multiple channels and platforms. Although all channel management systems contain some level of right management (some are more complex than others), some broadcasters prefer to select the 'best of breed' system and integrate it with their legacy channel management system

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