When D Media, a leading media entity in Egypt and the owner of DMC TV Network, were planning to build a completely new broadcast centre in Egyptian Media Production City, they selected a consortium of two well established Egyptian system integrators: Systems Design and Technology KAR to manage the whole project. The scope of the project was to launch several new TV channels broadcasting general entertainment programmes, news, sports, and drama. The consortium of systems integrators in turn allocated different aspects of the project to selected manufacturers and software houses, including: playout and studio automation to Aveco; the newsroom computer system to Octopus; long-term planning, scheduling and content management to Provys; production and playout servers to EVS and graphics to Vizrt. Perhaps Systems Design and Technology KAR got some ideas from previous articles about ABEX Society which highlighted the wealth of broadcasting expertise to be found within the members of the society in which the first three play a prominent role.
In contrast to many other local broadcasters’ habits, DMC specifically wanted to achieve maximum automation of all operational workflows. Scheduling is in pole position when it comes to workflows because all related activities are driven by the schedule. DMC is unique in that its scheduling contains long-term planning which subsequently triggers all downstream activities. A further special feature in DMC is the accurate scheduling of Salah times (Islamic prayer times) which occur five times per day at continually changing times, and which must be accurately programmed for years ahead. Such scheduling must also include appropriate and varied content for each prayer time. Out of interest, Salah times are calculated using a sophisticated mathematical formula using factors such as sunrise, sunset and shadows, typically in keeping with traditional Arabic expertise in the field of maths. These prayer slots are precisely defined within the system in order that subsequent operations cannot interfere with these prioritised intervals, thus avoiding any chance of human error.
“The whole scheduling and content management operation rests securely on an Oracle relational database platform, thereby facilitating co-terminus collaboration across the whole of the team. This is a vast improvement on previous standard office software systems which were not entirely dissimilar to the local archaeological monoliths”says Adam Krbusek, Senior Provys Consultant, Egypt.
One area where spreadsheets are still used is in the field of ad sales where commercial break time slots are defined and outsourced to ad agencies to fill appropriately. The completed spreadsheets are then imported back into Provys for subsequent playout. A further sophisticated element is the use of Arabic, reading from right to left, for all internal text communications whilst the menus are still presented in English in line with international standards and terminology.
On an interesting final point, Egyptian Media Production City is a concentrated hub of Egyptian media companies all working within a closed campus which is designed to protect the massive capital investments made by the various participants.
Winners have been announced for the 21st year of the exclusive DHL / Unicredit Exportersâ€™ Award under the auspices of CzechTrade, a government agency. The Middle East prize was awarded to DCIT Incorporated whose main exporting division is PROVYS. The awards were presented during a ceremony at the Microsoft Conference Centre in Prague on Wednesday, 21 November 2018.This special export prize is targeted each year on a different particular region. This year, it was the Middle East based on the results for 2017. DCIT/PROVYS, in comparison with previous years, achieved significant growth in trade with this region, with the highest incomes in Egypt and Turkey.
“Our exports to the Middle East make up only a small part of our turnover compared to Europe. That is why we were very pleased and encouraged by our victory in the Middle East category. DCIT’s main export items are the wide range of services associated with the implementation of software solutions, often tailored for particular customers in the broadcasting sector. Our high-quality software product, combined with rigorous project management and a customer-oriented approach help us to build the trust and relationships necessary for long-term cooperation in every export region. The Middle East is one of the regions with a high potential for further development and business opportunities”
says Josef Vasica, CEO of DCIT Inc.
Last year, DCIT celebrated its 25th anniversary. Since its inception, it has been one of the most highly respected local ICT professionals in its category. DCIT focuses on providing security analyses, information system audits and information technology consultancy, and its clients include large banks, telecommunication and media companies.
In 1997, DCIT launched the PROVYS TVoffice information system for the management of television and radio stations, which has been undergoing considerable development since its introduction. Today, this system is known in television stations across Europe and is currently forging new frontiers across Africa, Asia and America.
“PROVYS can be found in public media institutions in the European Union as well as in commercial TV stations and multinational companies such as CME, British Telecom, AMC Network and Viasat World. Through our substantial investment and development programme, we are expanding our portfolio of services to include television automation by innovative cloud services under the Stream Circle brand” adds Josef Vasica.
How often have you missed that last available seat on the plane because your credit card was declined at first attempt and your second attempt only showed no further bookings available?
Well, if you are a busy ad manager in a top-flight advertising agency, you will want to know on a real-time basis, the changing availability and bookability of ad slots in the major broadcast stations. For sure, you will not want your team to keep ringing or e-mailing the air-time sales department of the stations. Fortunately, 21st century technology is now able to efficiently smooth out these processes for the benefit of both parties. Ad sales software for broadcasters now exists which allows ad agency managers to monitor and book ad space slots on a continually updated basis, totally on line, without the need for communication with advertisement sales staff at the station. Even more interesting, is the fact that this software can be customised to meet the varying demands of different broadcasters, TV or radio, in terms of what information they are willing to give to accredited agencies. An added benefit of this software is that it helps to control the predatory instincts of the advertising sector and cut down on the number of business lunches.
So what are the specific details of this game-changing software?
Firstly, the ad agency can see on-line the future playout â€śad-in-timeâ€ť matrix including e.g. the name of the programme, specification of the ad block, predicted ratings, slot availability and sometimes even, the price. It is fully up to the broadcaster to decide what information to release. Secondly, the comprehensive overview of available ad space allows the users to model more sophisticated campaigns in a fraction of the time previously required. Thirdly, whilst booking and confirming the time slots, agencies can upload the advertisement content without further delay, directly to the servers of the broadcast station. The ad sales software then automatically handles the workflow processes required to ensure that this content is in the right place on the playout server, at the right time. Finally, once the advertisement has been broadcast, the software handles the issuing of the invoice and subsequent collection.
Since 2010, programmatic advertising has received a lot of hype with particular reference to its use on the internet, but, the general feeling today in this industry is that quality has been sacrificed at the expense of quantity. By contrast, modern research in the broadcasting sector is revealing better and better information concerning the demographic viewing profile analysed according to viewing time, programme content, age and gender of viewers, etc. This allows modern broadcasters to combine the attributes of this ad sales software with the latest viewing statistics in order to reclaim the quality in this most important aspect of the business.
“Provys, a leading developer of this state-of-the-art ad sales solution have successfully installed their software in a number of European broadcast stations with particular success in the Baltic states where a major media group is exploiting the power of this solution across many of its channels, allowing access by twenty leading ad agencies”says Daniel Komarek, Ad Sales Product Manager, Provys
In a nutshell, this solution improves efficiency, reduces communication time, operates 24/7, and increases the ad sales revenue of broadcasting stations, thereby improving their profitability QED.
In the world of modern broadcasting, there are two main styles of professional workflow management. The first and classical system is driven principally by the pre-defined functionalities of the software, leaving little or no scope for individual preferences and creative input. But, there is always light at the end of the tunnel (the end of the licensing period) affording the opportunity for broadcasters to step up to the second style which provides considerably greater flexibility and opportunities for creative changes arising from the enhanced configurability of this kind of system.
This short article will focus solely on the beauties of the varying but advanced configurability offered by higher level Broadcast Management Systems. Several levels exist, namely, configurability of GUI, Usersâ€™ Rights, Workflows + Messaging, Reports, Data Model, and even the Code itself. Of course, the package must originally be delivered configured to the best practice in the industry, and compatible with modern workflows and contemporary operational demands. The key to the beauty of the higher level system is that once adopted, it can be adapted.
Let us consider GUI (Graphic User Interface) first of all. GUI configurability gives the operator not only satisfaction for his/her creative soul (e.g. through different colours and skins), but offers administrators and superusers maximum flexibility for the ergonomic positioning of icons (selected from a wide range), columns, fields, tables, screens, symbols, tabs, etc. together with the possibility of adding or removing pre-existing items.
Turning now to Usersâ€™ Rights, we enter the domain of the administrator who has the responsibility for allocating the access control of different users. A sophisticated configurable system must have the power to offer the administrator total control over the definition, adjustment and allocation of roles and their relationships to different attributes.
Workflows and messaging are particularly subject to frequent updates and changes. Therefore, the configurability of all related management procedures is crucial. For example, the management of TV production or resources can be understood as specific items for project management. Different types of production and post-production, content delivery and processing, orders, approvals, etc. require flexible change tracking and adaptable messaging to run the whole broadcasting organisation smoothly and efficiently.
Reports have always been a critical output of any Broadcast Management System as they provide commercial, managerial and legal information on the ever-changing state of the business thus enabling proper decision making. In an advanced system, there must always be an integrated reporting tool which can create a series of standard reports or provide assistance and definition to any number of ad-hoc reports which may be required from time-to-time. In addition to this functionality, there should also be a standard API interface which can give access to our data to approved third parties to generate their own specialised reports.
The question of accessing the Data Model raises the spectre of â€śthin iceâ€ť and should only be made available to more experienced administrators. In a state-of-the-art management system, there must exist the opportunity to create new attributes in the data models, but one must always bear in mind that any changes in the data model carry the risk of incompatibility with future upgrades. Provys for example allows administrators to operate the upgraded system whilst being able to switch on or off the new features which could be influenced by the re-configured data model.
The last, but certainly not the least subject for configuration is the Code. An advanced knowledge of programming languages such as PL/SQL is required. This can be undertaken by skilled members of the broadcast staff or is often prepared by consultants of the software house as and when required. This type of configuration is used to provide new functionalities or the import of data into the system, for example.
“Configuring workflow systems is more and more an integral part of daily broadcast operations owing to the increasing prevalence of disruptors in this sector creating the need for ever more flexibility in workflow management.”Renata Chytkova, Senior Consultant, Provys.
As all regular exhibitors at IBC know, the summer months are usually occupied answering the same question from the industry, year after year, namely: What are you bringing to this yearâ€™s show thatâ€™s new? Some manufacturers only bring a mock-up, hoping to test the market reaction, whilst others happily exhibit the real thing. Our focus for this article is a small but crucial element in VOD programming, specifically programme segmentation, which will be demonstrated this year in Hall 2 at the Provys booth.
Traditional linear TV programme segmentation comprises the content available for cutting (film, episode of a series, sport, show, documentary, concert, etc.), advertising, self-promotion, sponsorship messages, jingles, overlay advertisements, etc. The programme scheduling of these events is already a standard component of all modern broadcast management systems, sometimes referred to as broadcast traffic systems. As the picture shows, many contemporary broadcasters are now developing their operations into non-linear delivery, they have established parallel departments responsible for programming, and therefore, also segmentation, of their VOD playout. This has lead to inefficiencies arising from duplication of many of the operations. Broadcasters therefore turned to the software industry and requested a revision of the existing workflow management tools, flexible enough to deal with the new challenges arising from â€śfree-to-airâ€ť VOD distribution.Although many broadcasters still regard non-linear operations as a loss-making â€śmust haveâ€ť, there are some examples that prove the financial success of these activities. A good one of these examples is TV 2 Norwayâ€™s SUMO non-linear platform where they milk their content to maximum effect. The non-linear programme segmentation is easier when the â€śpay-per-viewâ€ť method is applied (no advertisement is then inserted) or even when the content is handed over to a third party for further distribution and monetisation. However, broadcasters using their own non-linear platforms can improve efficiencies whilst maximising revenues and keeping the content under their strict control. As an example of this, a programme scheduler working with the rights in a traditional linear environment can very simply extend the control of these rights to the non-linear operations, making the content available under the existing strict conditions for VOD colleagues without further duplication. The same principle applies to break-pattern selection, management and control. This newly revised planning system allows schedulers to quickly view a lo-res version of the content within their scheduling app in order to identify the most appropriate points for ad insertions.
“Less staff can manage many more channels…”
Another important feature facilitates the â€śAuto Promo Bookingâ€ť for self promotion or other insertions, as required, even in the absence of professional personnel. Imagine for a moment that such activities were initially undertaken by internet professionals operating with front-end software solutions. The benefits to the broadcasters are therefore clearly apparent including the harmonious integration of two previously disparate departments who now work together as one big happy family.
To summarise, less staff can manage many more channels with fewer errors and more time available for creative tasks.â€ť says Renata Chytkova, Senior Consultant at Provys, and adds: â€śWe believe that every broadcaster has to cope with the pressure from the youth market who simply do not wish to watch TV from their parentsâ€™ couches and we are expecting a lot of interest from colleagues at the upcoming IBC where we will be demonstrating our new developments in this field.
New Logo for PROVYS
ooking back on 21 years of successful growth and development, PROVYS are celebrating this magical anniversary with a new logo which encapsulates all the features of a modern and progressive software solution company. The icon on the left represents the growth of PROVYS from a rising star at the turn of the century to a global player today. Our CEO, Josef Vasica, especially liked the logo as it reminded him of an eagleâ€™s claw firmly holding the companyâ€™s achievements and market share. The bold yellow letters indicate a solid yet bright base for future development.
“We are delighted to present our new logo which will come into general use on 1 September 2018”Josef Vasica, CEO
At 37,000 feet, flying home from Telemundo Show, the largest annual July broadcasting convention in Mexico, and thinking of my next trip to IBC, my mind drifted, like a cloud, as I contemplated the similarities between the broadcastersâ€ fundamental four agreements and the best selling Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, master and shaman of the Toltec philosophy.
Let us first consider all four of the Toltec agreements according to Don Miguel Ruiz. They are:
“Be impeccable with your word”
“Don’t take anything personally”
“Don’t make assumptions”
“Always do your best”
Ruiz teaches us
that these agreements formed the four pillars governing the behaviour of the Toltec civilisation. And let us now consider the four fundamental agreements every broadcaster must comply with in order to survive and succeed in this highly competitive business. They are:
- A licence with the appropriate licensing authority
- Commercial agreements with the rights owners
- Commercial agreements with advertisers
- A quality-based unwritten agreement to attract potential viewers (free-to-air) or a commercial agreement (pay TV)
Opening my second small bottle of wine, courtesy of a delightful air-hostess, it occurred to me just how close these two sets of agreements are and how we may benefit from applying the Toltec philosophy to modern broadcasting practice. And so, I would like to share my thoughts with you and invite you to study the attached picture.
For a broadcaster, the critical first step is to obtain a licence from the government or the licensing authority, for without this, nothing else can proceed. An important part of the application procedure is a long term plan covering the general philosophy and direction of the channel which must be submitted for consideration by the licensor. This long term plan can be generated by various means utilising, for example available capital, market needs, local knowledge, but the final version will undoubtedly benefit from the guiding hand of existing scheduling systems, with their advanced scheduling modules which contain budgeting and multi-versioning. It almost goes without saying that the Toltec agreement to be impeccable with your word will govern this aspect of broadcast licensing, because without such impeccability, the licensing authority is unlikely to approve and/or prolong the appropriate licence.
Almost no modern broadcaster can survive solely on their own content, and in order to create a full schedule, it is necessary to purchase external content. Rights owners are always sensitive to unauthorised use of their intellectual rights and transgressing these legal constraints can prove expensive for the unwary or careless broadcaster. The Toltecs teach us not to take things personally and it is critical for broadcasters to realise that the owners of external content expect an agreement and payment before one can use the essence, even if it is already in the library. And to ensure that such errors do not occur, it is wise to use a professional rights management tool. Do not take this personally.
Without exception, all broadcasters require funding, and the principle source for most stations is advertising. Broadcasters sell commercial space to agents who arrange to fill the capacity with appropriate advertising, which of course, raises revenue. However it is not so simple that it can be ignored and it is critical that broadcasters do not assume that they have all the answers, when in fact, they may not have all the questions. The process of raising revenue from advertising requires hard work, market research and constant updating of information, all of which can be assisted by professional ad sales tools. The Toltecs teach us not to make assumptions and it is very clear how appropriate this guidance is in this context. Errors can be expensive so decisions should be based upon facts and not assumptions.
The acquisition and maintenance of good audience statistics is not a given but is solely dependent on continuous high quality programming. The broadcasting business is extremely competitive and hundreds of channels are just waiting to steal your viewers. The Toltecs teach us to always do our best and this principle is the key to getting and keeping the audience share high.
And so we see how the ancient wisdom of the Toltecs is still valid for modern day commercial operations, in this case broadcasting. We would like to conclude this article by utilising the fourth agreement one more time and recommending that broadcasters can always do their best by establishing a long term partnership with Provys whose suite of modules can assist all processes mentioned in this article. A long list of broadcasters can attest to the fact that Provys have the most effective solutions for the 21st century, but we must never lose sight of the Toltec guidance from 1,000 years ago. We trust you are all in agreement.
Relaxing in the not-too-comfortable departure lounge at Las Vegas International Airport on my way home from NABSHOW 2018, my mind drifted back 25 years to my first NAB and I began to contemplate the numerous changes which the broadcasting industry had experienced during this quarter of a century. Unlike the lounge, which still retains its original sparse atmosphere, and is slightly poorer these days having lost the excitement of the pumping and tinkling of the jackpot coin payouts from the fruit machines, the broadcast industry has experienced massive changes in both technological and financial considerations.
Back in the old days, the industry was privileged to enjoy good margins on their exclusive, tailor-made, proprietary gizmos giving rise to extravagant trade shows, boundless hospitality and entertainment and a guaranteed bottom line surplus to keep the shareholders satisfied. The generosity did not end there but was even reflected in the free-of-charge service arrangements which accompanied the afore-mentioned gizmos. A number of famous global suppliers actually pampered their clients to such a degree that when service charges for support started to become a standard part of the supply package, much to their surprise, their clients tended to vote with their feet in order to seek continued free support elsewhere.
Wake up from the dreams
As we wake up from the dreams of these good old days, we see a more business-like approach within the broadcast industry driven by the hard reality of the need to make dependable profits and undertake continual R&D. Technological demand is also continually shifting in line with these changes as broadcasters themselves also have to face these hard realities. I spent most of my time at NAB on the Provys stand and I attended many of the client meetings. I was continually impressed by the consistency of the requirements put forward by broadcasters visiting the stand, in particular, the need for greater automation and improved efficiency. This exactly dovetails with the comments of Lorenzo Zanni, Lead Analyst with IABM, in their recent industry forecasts. In a nutshell, broadcasters simply need to do more with less.During the show, Provys were presenting three lectures daily titled: â€śBe on the ball – operating a sports channel from production up to transmissionâ€ť; â€śPlaylist in 5 minutes – automate the scheduling of your channelsâ€ť and â€śContent first – optimise multichannel use, linear and especially nonlinear!â€ť, topics which exactly reflected IABMâ€™s forecasts and visiting clientsâ€™ expressed requirements. â€śBe on the ballâ€ť covered the management of sports broadcasting and how to plan live matches, particularly the scheduling of resources, together with the scheduling of live broadcasting of these events. The presentation, â€śPlaylist in 5 minutesâ€ť, showed how easy it would be to use an advanced broadcast management system instead of the current manual, time-consuming and often very boring methods. The â€śContent firstâ€ť lecture demonstrated how to keep pace with the changes in this era of constantly evolving markets. Sabina Svidova, Business Analyst at Provys, one of the presenters, explained:
“We wanted to highlight real life experiences from the field in our presentations. For example, a case study based on Norway TV 2 showed how they successfully monetise their content across channels and paid platforms. Another case study showed our experience of the demanding management at BT Sport”
In the time that I have been attending, NAB has come a long way from the early relaxed days when cell phones and credit cards were scarce executive toys. Todayâ€™s visitor is professionally focused on finding the best, state-of-the-art solutions among the myriad stands and not always totally reliable exhibitors. And to this Sabina adds: “Offering the best solutions to the industry, with the highest levels of efficiency and ongoing support, yet with a human face, is, and always has been our principal objective“
As every shipâ€™s captain recognises, it is very important to know exactly where we are heading, together with how, when and at what cost. Successful navigation depends upon having our voyage fully charted or scheduled as we say in the broadcasting industry. It goes without saying that good charts help the captain to avoid icebergs, and good and efficient scheduling ensures maximum viewer share and profitability for broadcasters.
The big question is, therefore, how do we get this efficiency into our multi-channel, 24/7 operations? As you will see from the heading, we are prompted toward the most sophisticated software solution which has been designed over many years to consolidate the best broadcasting practices from around the world. This solution can create complex, precise and time-code accurate broadcasting schedules within minutes and we will now explain the magic behind this apparently immodest claim.
The first point, in order to take advantage of the automation power inherent within the solution, is that operators can define rules for standard and repetitive tasks thereby removing the need for manual involvement in a great number of operations. Time slots, including break patterns, can be filled instantly and automatically without the risk of error which is unavoidable in human operations. For example, hand on heart, how many times have we seen promos for events that have already happened?
The second point, which is financially critical, is the import of pre-sold advertisements into the schedule including all the necessary adjustments required to accommodate difficult demands from advertisers whilst still adhering to time-code precise schedules. Again, most of this can be automatic according to pre-defined rules. This is very easy when using the in-built ad sales module, but also quite simple for third-party ad sales systems as interfaces are regularly created.
The next point
The next major point is secondary graphics, a popular, valuable and continually developing tool to lock in the viewersâ€™ attention. Most common amongst these are logos, text announcements, commercial graphics, and simple messages such as: â€śyou are watchingâ€¦â€ť, â€ścoming nextâ€ť, â€śstay with us forâ€¦â€ť. An unlimited number of such graphics can be scheduled automatically and risk-free according to any pre-defined rules.
As Wendy Vytiskova, Pre-sales Consultant at Provys says: “One of the most valuable tools which we have recently created within the heart of our system is the Promo-Auto-Booking facility which automatically ensures that any available capacity, any single frame in fact, within the schedule is efficiently allocated for self-promotion, even on a cross-channel basis. The magic behind this trick is that the system utilises GRP (Gross Rating Point) forecasts to ensure that any particular self-promotion is seen by the required targeted viewers. This maximises the efficiency and effectiveness of self-promotion activities.”
Furthermore, this advanced scheduling module naturally allows the planning of non-linear content presentation using the common metadata. As an example of this, TV 2 Norway have exploited this functionality to massively increase their audience share which obviously has a positive impact on their revenues.
Finally, the cost aspects of this solution are very reasonable due to the fact that licences are not limited to any number of channels but can be utilised for expansion without additional cost.
Additionally, different budget versions for different schedules can be easily created, compared and selected in order to minimise costs.In conclusion, the automation and error-free facilities within the Provys scheduling module allow broadcasters, public, private, large or small, to free valuable time for their professional staff to concentrate on new and interesting areas of responsibility including expansion.
TV Executives! Not to be missed at NAB 2018: N4124
This year, at the NABSHOW Broadcast Engineering and IT Conference, Harald Hovdevik and Kjell Ove Skarsbo from TV 2 Norway will present how their Greenfield Playout Programme revolutionises content handling. The presentation will be held on April 7th, 2018, at 3:20 p.m., room N260-A. From Monday on, at the exhibition booth N4124, 3 p.m. every afternoon, Sabina Svidova, Provys, will demonstrate how TV 2 successfully monetises their content.The Provys solution allows TV companies to plan their programme offerings in one integrated software system. It can be used throughout the entire broadcasting process, from booking some production equipment, or ordering a new blockbuster movie, until the finished product goes on air. The architect and system integrator of the Provys solution for TV 2 is Mediability (a highly regarded international provider of products, solutions and support for the broadcast and media industries) who have been central in creating this new chapter of Nordic broadcasting history.