Pausing to evaluate the successes of this year’s NABSHOW in Las Vegas and the splendid exhibits presented there for the delight of our media moguls, I could not escape the thoughts of how much interest was generated by the content benchmarking software tool which was demonstrated at the show.
The days of long discussions in smokie rooms in order to evaluate the future profitability of video content are fast drawing to a close as software solutions are now able to compare and evaluate content potential. Even before purchasing such assets as content, it is possible to asses and therefore maximise future returns on investment budgets. Global software developers in the broadcasting industry are perfecting a tool for content benchmarking which is rapidly becoming a “must-have” in the software portfolio of the 21st century broadcaster.
Benchmarking is the practice of comparing business processes and performance metrics to industry bests and best practices from other companies. Benchmarking actually started as a means of measuring the accuracy of rifles by fixing them to a bench and comparing the marks made by different types of ammunition on a fixed target. Such comparisons enabled manufacturers to develop the best combination of bullet and gun. Today, benchmarking has developed into a business idiom relating to the measurement of selected variables and their comparison against industry’s best practice.
In the world of broadcasting, content benchmarking compares the potential profitability of a range of offered programmes in order to evaluate the most appropriate content for their delivery. Comparison is still a major component of this methodology but in this case, it is not against industry’s best practice but is against a choice of competing content. The benchmarking software is based on criteria relating to some fifteen factors such as, target group, schedule zone, week zone, week day, seasonal index, holidays, cost per point, sold-out rating, average ad agency commission fee, average cost per hour, average discount, average index of TRP during ad breaks, commercial minute coefficient in one hour, etc. Of course, the set of factors can be extended as required. The criteria themselves are flexible within their own ranges and are used by the software to calculate a comprehensive forecast of a content’s future potential. This allows evaluation of both existing content and that which the broadcaster may be considering producing.
“Our solution gives content purchasers the hard numbers they require in order to decide whether or not to sign the purchase contract”
“In addition to this, our revolutionary and highly competitive promise of implementation of our whole scheduling system, within five weeks, also generated a huge amount of interest” says Zdenek Razek, Product Manager Scheduling, Provys.
The first professional benchmarking solution has been developed in close consultation with AMB (All Media Baltics), who are now trialling the application and reporting favourably on the performance and clear benefits which they are experiencing. “In the context of media and art, the content purchase manager might love something at first sight, but this tool will hit the financial bull’s eye” comments Kristaps Safranovs, IT System Manager at AMB.
In accordance with their usual tradition, PROVYS once again held their annual CLIENT FORUM from June 5th – 7th 2019 in Prague, selecting two prominent high spots for their conference activities. The venue for this year’s event was the NH Collection Hotel famous for its two-level operations, connected by a hidden tourist attraction, namely a cable car running up the hill between the two sites. The cable car goes from the hotel up to the restaurant and conference centre above the city and offers a superb view of the panorama beyond the trees.
As is customary, the honoured guests discussed their strategic projects and shared their experience with other attendees, who are always exclusively Provys clients and partners. The event, once more, encouraged networking among leading broadcasters, Provys Business Partners, Product Managers and Executives. Major challenges of the broadcasting business were on the agenda and participants’ feedback is currently being evaluated by the appropriate development teams. Forum delegates are always welcome to give a short presentation of their strategic projects together with their views on the role of Provys in their organisations, both now and in the future.
“The event is not orientated purely on business but also has a very important and enjoyable non-digital social side, where everybody gets to know each other face-to-face.”
This year’s social event was held at the famous landmark, the Zizkov TV Tower, some 216 m in height, and the tallest building in the city. With a 360° view, Prague is laid out before your eyes from the restaurant at 66 m. This entire floor is dedicated to relaxation and above all, to top quality gourmet experiences. The famous architects, Vaclav Aulicky and Jiri Kozak, designed the tower in the 1980s and ten giant sculptures of babies, by leading Czech artist David Cerny, crawl all over the outside of the tower.
Let’s make it clear from the start, we are not talking technology here, but the latest professional upgrades to our human resources. We are pleased to announce the recent addition of three top flight experts in the fields of IT and broadcast management.
First amongst them, we must welcome Marek Jakub as a Senior Programmer on the Systems Integration Team. Marek comes to us after more than 15 years with Nova TV, the largest private broadcaster in the Czech Republic, working as a Business Systems Administrator. In fact, Nova were a little sad concerning his desire for greener pastures, as the parting was totally amicable, and they engineered a career path for him by recommending him to us here at Provys, a major partner and supplier of Nova TV, thereby ensuring a continuing relationship with Marek. Accordingly, one could claim that he goes down in history as the first media professional to be “head-shunted”. In his younger days, Marek was a champion mathematician being placed in the top five in a nation-wide competition, guaranteeing himself automatic admission to the Maths Faculty of Charles University without further entrance exam requirements. When not deep in mathematical thought, his principal hobby is walking (running) the dog, a Prague Ratter, famous for its lively and active nature, thus perhaps exposing the other side of Marek’s character.
Next, we are pleased to welcome Radek Vacha as the Team Leader of our Senior Consultants. Radek comes to us after a global career with the top names where he managed and developed large IT systems for finance, banking and insurance companies. He brings experience from the USA, Poland, France, China and, of course, the Czech and Slovak Republics. As a self-confessed workaholic, one of his principal pursuits is the development and promotion of IT systems with the best possible friendly nature and characteristics, thereby dovetailing perfectly with our motto: “Efficiency with a human face”. When not drumming up new IT concepts, one of Radek’s hobbies is drumming on his new electronic drum set. He also enjoys history, marketing, psychology, photography and motorbiking.
Last but not least, we are delighted to welcome Josef Zadina as a Presales Business Analyst. Josef comes to us from Aveco, a global name in broadcast automation, where he rose to the position of Sales Director during a career spanning more than 19 years. Prior to that, he worked for Czech TV for 7 years as an engineer in the continuity studios. In his soul, he is a broadcast engineer whose top-level technical expertise will certainly be invaluable to the Provys organisation and their clients. In his heart, he is a mountain man, predominantly pursuing cross-country skiing and hiking. On the technical side, he has an unusual hobby of creating computer networks between family and friends through his own sophisticated domestic hub.
“These welcome additions to the Provys team strengthen our capabilities and set us securely on the path to further future successes”says Jan Hrdlicka, Managing Director, Provys.
Once again, Provys attended the annual ABEX conference together with the great and good of the Czech and Slovak broadcasting industries, along with media colleagues from several other countries. Josef Vasica, CEO of Provys, gave a fascinating presentation on current developments in the Provys portfolio, including recently completed and ongoing projects at All Media Baltics, Ecuador TV, Viasat World, AMC Networks Iberia and SYN Iceland.
A rich programme was also offered by other colleagues, comprising both users‘ presentations together with manufacturers and suppliers‘ project experience, not forgetting the usual exposure to 100 of the best Moravian wines.
Martin Junek, Master of Ceremonies, performed his customary introduction, this year focusing on the wide range of Czech and Slovak broadcast sector developers who had presented their latest products and services at the recent NABSHOW in Las Vegas. Among these exhibitors, the following gave a brief presentation to the assembled Abex forum: Aveco, CamStreamer, ChyronHego (former AKI Sport), Octopus Newsroom, Provys, Stream Circle and Traco Systems.
Josef Vasica also brought a list of challenging questions he had faced on the stands in Las Vegas. Prominent amongst them were:
“How can you help us when we don’t want to compete with Netflix using their own weapons?”
“What cloud should we use if we don’t want to pay Amazon, our competitor?”
“What are we to do when we are convinced that the latest technologies are not yet fully developed and therefore, we are withholding upgrades of our current ones?”
“What kind of optimisation and automation can you offer if we want to return to growth?”
“Do your solutions use artificial intelligence?”
Josef then provided some possible directions regarding how to answer these questions and left them open for further discussion amongst the participants over a glass of wine.
Delegates, including all major national Czech and Slovak broadcasters, particularly appreciated Josef’s input and agreed that the conference had been extremely interesting and informative.
The Incas perfect understanding of Mother Nature’s delicate balancing act has allowed the development of San Francisco de Quito, now simply known as Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, sitting on the Equator but at an elevation of 2,850 metres (9,350 ft) above sea level. Originally, a major city of the Incas, it is now both the second-highest official capital city in the world (after La Paz, Bolivia), and the second highest location of a cluster of television broadcasters.
Among this cluster, Ecuador TV, the public service channel of Ecuador, was established in October 2007 to transmit content from independent national and international producers and documentaries and news programmes from different sources including Discovery, TVE, BBC, Deutsche Welle and Voice of America. Following in the footsteps of Charles Darwin (the Galapagos Islands are part of Ecuador), and utilising all of the latest media technologies, Ecuador TV have now taken their next evolutionary leap and contracted with Hitachi Kokusai to upgrade their operations. This upgrade started in 2016 with the objective of expediting the process of migration of public broadcasting from analogue to digital television using the Japanese standard ISDB-T with a Brazilian modification which enables a degree of interactivity with the viewer. This standard is almost universal in the whole of South America. The project also includes an advanced playout automation system, supplied and installed by Aveco. Such state-of-the-art technology requires only the finest broadcast management system with the most modern programme scheduling, and it was therefore, natural that the Provys suite of software solutions was chosen to meet the quality demands of Ecuador TV.
“In the rare air of the high Andes, the rare talents of the Provys team were called upon to fill the bill”.
“The digitisation of South American broadcasting significantly challenges broadcasters and particularly, their workflow managers. Such rarefied demands require the absolute best systems whose functionalities need to integrate perfectly with the other parts of the whole broadcasting chain” says Vaclav Malek, Consultant, Provys, and continues: “It is a pleasure to work with the professionals in Quito, both the IT guys from Ecuador TV and the Hitachi Engineers. English language was originally specified for the new software systems, but it became fairly clear that, in the near future, Spanish versions would almost certainly be required, and we are ready, willing and able to facilitate this.”
The benefits of the new system, which replaced standard office software tools, include: massively improved sharing of information; elimination of human errors; automation of broadcasting workflows and vastly increased overall efficiency. All of these benefits can now be found in the offices of Ecuador TV, situated close the historic centre of Quito which has one of the largest, least-altered and best-preserved historic centres in the Americas, now being on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site list. The modern city of Quito is actually founded on the ancient ruins of the original Incan city. The Incas, of course, rather preferred telepathy to television.
Back in the office, our thoughts still linger on the exciting times we experienced at the recent NABSHOW 2019 in Las Vegas. The PROVYS team were proud to present the latest developments to their renowned broadcast management solutions. Clients old and new, together with our global partners, were particularly fascinated by our latest proposal of PROVYS world-class scheduling system fully implemented and operational within only 5 weeks. This is a game-changer in the market and we expect many new broadcasters to install our scheduling system in the very near future. Highly experienced visitors were enthralled at this revolutionary prospect of having such a sophisticated software solution up and running within so short a timescale.
On the stand, visitors were mesmerised watching as PROVYS staff created a comprehensive broadcasting schedule within only 5 minutes, thereby illustrating the power of the scheduling module.
“Other ground-breaking developments on show in Las Vegas included content benchmarking…”
“Other ground-breaking developments on show in Las Vegas included: content benchmarking, a tool which enables broadcasters to compare in advance the potential profitability of a range of content; non-linear content publishing and segmentation, a major feature which allows broadcasters to painlessly expand into the world of “new media”; more powerful post-production workflow management; sophisticated EDL (Edit Decision List) usage for management of complex programme rights and metadata segments; split screen scheduling for more efficient usage of air-time and air-time ad sales now extended to web delivery” said Karel Votroubek, Commercial Director, PROVYS
To all those who have experience standing on the booth of a media management solution provider at one of the global broadcasting trade fairs (e.g. NAB or IBC), the following scenario will not be unfamiliar, namely: a prospective client or partner approaches the booth and asks politely if the offered solution is BXF-compatible. A psychologist would have great fun watching the face of the guy on the booth as s/he responds positively, knowing the answer is “yes” on account of the flexibility that BXF offers, but silently worrying in case this particular request may cost the company an arm and a leg to develop.
BXF (Broadcast Exchange Format) is an XML based standard for data exchange in the broadcasting industry formally defined by SMPTE. It was developed to supersede numerous archaic types of exchange for playlists, record lists and various other data in broadcasting. The first version was published in 2008. Unsurprisingly, only 150 SMPTE members were required to ensure the definition of the standard. Readers familiar with “Baby Snakes” by Frank Zappa will realise that he also was a dedicated fan of theirs.
Switching the mood now, SMPTE and BXF require some practical de-mystification. The second release (BXF 2.0) valid from 2012, was followed by the widespread adoption of this standard for interoperability between and among multiple media management systems. Serious collaboration on the BXF standard across the global broadcast industry today delivers structured XML information for traffic systems, automation solutions, MAMs and more, with clear and specific mapping instructions. BXF currently provides a robust yet flexible communication schema which efficiently addresses today’s complex array of delivery platforms together with targeted advertising, a critical element of modern media business.
“ We have been using BXF in numerous projects over the past ten years.”
“For us and other developers, BXF comprises a suite of documents standardising messaging protocols for information exchange. It does not limit the actual communication media for transmission and reception. For example, you can simply leave your BXF message in a defined folder where it is picked up, read, hopefully understood by the recipient. We have been using BXF in numerous projects over the past ten years. It has provided an excellent solution to the need for the exchanges of schedules/playlists, as-run logs, content metadata, and content transfer instructions between various systems including editors, scheduling, automation, sales, billing and even MAM equipment” says Petr Dolejsi, Senior MAM Consultant, Provys. “Since the launch of BXF, many improvements in the schema have become available to the users and it is important to note that the Provys schema perfectly matches that of BXF thereby guaranteeing the highest levels of interoperability” Petr added.
As the diagram illustrates, BXF facilitates multinational communication between broadcasting headquarters and their foreign subsidiaries. Metadata flow both out and in seamlessly, between various systems and differing national requirements. Developers confirm that the standard today is affordable, well-described and user-friendly although they would prefer to see more examples from SMPTE to learn from. The original concern that the “Private Section” sitting outside of the schema would be over-utilised as a “workaround” has been overtaken by the latest definitions of the BXF standard which exactly reflect the needs of the modern broadcasting industry.
Looking forward to seeing you in Las Vegas (April 8 – 11) where Provys, famous for workflow management solutions from planning to content delivery, will be showcasing the following new features:
· Content benchmarking , a tool which enables broadcasters to compare in advance the potential profitability of a range of content
· Non-linear content publishing and segmentation , a major feature which allows broadcasters to painlessly expand into the world of “new media”
· More powerful post-production workflow management
· Sophisticated EDL (Edit Decision List) usage for management of complex programme rights and metadata segments
· Split screen scheduling for more efficient usage of air-time
· Air-time ad sales now extended to web delivery
In addition to these media management aspects, the aware visitor will also be delighted to find inspirational guidance and friendly presentations at Booth N5215.
PROVYS is the largest division of DCIT Inc., based in the beautiful city of Prague, and is a major independent player in the development of software solutions for the broadcasting and media industries, together with specialised software and services for cyber security.
After more than 20 years of continual development, PROVYS is today a renowned global software for controlling processes and workflows in media organisations. The broadcasters’ experience aggregated by PROVYS over the years allows their consultants to offer the widest knowledge of the media industry to clients.
The seamlessly integrated software package consists of sophisticated modules for production and resource management, long term planning and scheduling, strategic programming tools for a multi-channel environment, highly effective automated self-promotion, invaluable contingency planning for flexible sport events, auto-replays and effective series planning as well as a programme guide and EPG data editing. PROVYS gathers and helps to evaluate transmission history. All of these broadcasting tools are further complemented with powerful management applications for rights, media assets, archiving and ad sales. PROVYS simply offers a peerless benefit-to-cost ratio.
Finally, DCIT Inc. is a popular, equal opportunities employer where talent is recognised and encouraged. We deem the relationships with our clients to be of the highest value as our mission is to provide “Efficiency with a human face”, through predictability, professionalism, and open communication.
“Dear Visitors, you are kindly requested to book your appointment in advance at firstname.lastname@example.org . A warm welcome is guaranteed.”
In any complex project management environment where a supplier is contracted to meet the requirements of a purchaser, it is a given that the project management teams on each side will have different objectives, expectations, standards and methodologies. Navigating the stormy waters between these two sides can be a hazardous experience which can cause delays, misunderstandings, errors and additional costs. By contrast, it should be pointed out that the waters between such parties may be calm and even too peaceful, reflecting a lack of objective input, which can also leave the project ship-wrecked. So where and how shall we find our bridge?
In the world of media, one of the top developers of broadcast management systems is Provys, who are regularly required to improve the operating procedures of mid-size to large multichannel broadcasters with their fully integrated workflow software solution. Despite trying to keep an unrelenting focus on final outcomes, Provys nevertheless realise that even with their famously strong project team, there are indisputable benefits to be derived from a broadcaster’s decision to employ third-party expert project managers to act in the capacity of consultants who will take an overview of the implementation, acting as a bridge over any potential issues. Petr Helebrant, Project Manager at Provys, explains:
“We have recently completed two substantial projects with Viasat World and All Media Baltics (AMB), utilising the overarching consultancy expertise of Posterity-Milestone and Ravensbeck respectively, both UK based consultancies whose services include project and programme management. Their contribution to the successful completion of these projects, on time and on budget, cannot be overemphasised, and I fully recommend this method of management for complex projects.”
A brief look at these two project management consultants will help us to better understand their philosophies and methodologies. Their projects have included multiple new channel launches globally for broadcast companies and content owners, ranging from a Video On Demand service to full channel launch, and fitting out green-field media site technology. Both have been responsible for end to end programme management, including scheduling, rights & media management, technology and process design, and successful launches into operations. Adapting their approach to the culture and structure of their clients, they ensure that project and programme management disciplines can work in any organisational environment. Their teams actually fill any internal gaps in the short term, whilst advising clients on vendor selection and the best way to address skills shortages or inappropriate resource levels.
The diagram, courtesy of Roman Barton, Head of Project Teams at Provys, illustrates the five main phases of a typical enterprise software implementation in a broadcasting operation, broken down further into the numerous activities required in each phase, all superimposed on a simplified Gantt Chart. The external project management consultants, mentioned above, are active in the Pre-project, Specification, Acceptance and Roll-out phases where the risk of delays and losses can occur, and where their value added contribution is extremely effective. Careful study of this self-explanatory diagram is highly recommended as it encapsulates many years of project management experience. For broadcasters, following this methodology / navigation chart is your sure-fire way of safely surviving the potentially troubled waters of project management.