Any broadcast system developer would consider it a “dream job” to enter into a long-term partnership with such a highly regarded global player as Viasat World, a leading international TV company offering 27 Pay TV channels in 50+ countries together with non-linear on-demand services in many different territories. Their international team produces, curates and distributes to a massive network of content verticals including acquisitions from Hollywood, international and local studios and production companies.
When Viasat World were reviewing their workflow management systems, particularly scheduling, rights and content management, they opened a tender with strict requirements to replace their legacy systems and procedures. These previous systems were based on two different standard broadcast management systems which were available some years ago together with programmes from the Microsoft Office Suite. Provys were selected to make system updates and the transition in programme scheduling, rights and content management on one consolidated database platform which would offer the following advantages: unified workflows, perfect collaboration between different departments, all posted information to be available and shared to the whole team on a real-time basis, the removal of repetition and duplication in the workflow processes and the elimination of human errors. In particular, the non-linear department is ecstatic because operators can now access data with simply a few clicks, for example, the validity of content rights for non-linear delivery.
For the project management, they prudently recognised that such a mammoth task now required external professional consultancy to handle the complexities of changing, upgrading, integrating and generally improving all aspects of their operations. For this top-level task, they selected Posterity ~ Milestone (www.posterity.co.uk), a trusted project delivery partner to worldwide clients for over 20 years. In particular, Posterity provide delivery capability and innovative consulting services. They focus predominantly on broadcasting, media, telecoms and digital transformations in the private sector and public service and government. It was Viasat World’s initiative to bring in Posterity as project managers who would sit in the middle of the supplier/purchaser matrix, focusing entirely on resolving differences and completing the project on time and on budget. Further discussion of the advantages of this methodology will be presented in greater depth in future articles.
“When we started our project analysis, we were surprised at the range and scope of the requirements of Viasat World especially regarding the number of interfaces to be included in the new system. But we drew upon our depth of experience in this sector and submitted proposals to match the demands of the whole operation”says Ondrej Marik, Main Consultant for Viasat World, Provys.
“Seamless delivery of detailed programme schedules is required round the clock to playout centres in different countries, different time zones and different languages, including Russian. In addition, we needed to integrate with many other systems such as: MAM by Mediaflex, advertising sales software (e.g. Polsat Media), rights agency reporting (e.g. Soundmouse), language translation systems for EPG (e.g. PAWA), etc. Finally, Viasat World really appreciated our commitment to on-site training of their users.”
The project started in Q2 2018 and the “go-live” date is now imminent. Dreams are normally over-night sensations, but the high level of open and flexible communication enabled Provys to go beyond the call of duty, spending some extra time to create the best possible solution for Viasat World.
The fifty thousand delegates who congregate at the annual IBC represent the elite movers and shakers of the media industries, and as such, their views and conceptions of the business are influenced by their own experiences and business objectives. As a result, their “expert” opinions may differ slightly from the middle majority opinions as would be shown on a typical demographic Gaussian curve designed to illustrate how the average person would consume his/her media and entertainment diet.
The broadcasting industry is under conflicting pressures from the different interests in the market. These include, for example, the younger generation who watch content from a wide choice of broadcasters and on-demand service providers, on a number of portable devices, in an infinite variety of locations and are, therefore, not too concerned about the resolution and technical quality. Further pressures come from those consumers who invest in the highest quality devices and consequently, they are sometimes disappointed if they do not enjoy the highest quality reception. These two groups are in contrast to the average domestic viewer who sees TV as a means of escape at the end of a hard day, and is not too concerned about the quality of the picture and sound. The truth is, that although they possess cheap but good quality HD receivers, they are nevertheless mostly fed a diet of artificially upscaled SD fare.
“Revenue streams in both the traditional linear and on-demand sectors are still strong and quite stable.”
Relatively new major players come from the telco industry who now enjoy a considerable portion of the bandwidth and use this advantage to develop their own media and entertainment business. They come not only with traditional linear delivery e.g. live sports, but also with new platforms and generally non-linear means of delivery. Provys has been working closely with some of the major telcos, such as BT Sport, and not being too immodest, I should say that they are entirely satisfied with our support when entering the media and entertainment domain. Finally, we would like to mention the big global on-demand content providers such as Netflix, Amazon and Disney who have experienced colossal non-linear growth in the last few years, taking a huge share of available investment for their developing business models, being both subscription and advertising based.
Only time will tell if their commercial operations will produce a sustainable balance between attractive and money-making content.
Twenty years ago, the doomsayers of the media and entertainment industry were assuring us of the imminent death of linear TV on account of the rapidly developing non-linear means of delivery. Our experience from implementing Provys workflow solutions demonstrates that their fears were ill-founded as revenue streams in both the traditional linear, and on-demand sectors are still strong and quite stable. Provys develops sophisticated software for both linear and non-linear operators and we look forward to welcoming you on our stand, 2B49, at every IBC.
Enormous changes in office design in the last fifteen years have seen the introduction of many non-business extras, the purpose of which is to pamper the rare and over-stressed grey matter of the specialists employed to improve the bottom line of their companies’ profit and loss accounts. Such extras probably started with the famous Google “chill out room”, and were soon followed by other innovations such as hot desking, biophilic design, water features such as fountains, fish tanks, tropical plants, etc., dedicated task areas, fully-equipped fancy kitchens with sophisticated coffee and snack-vending machines, games rooms, miniature libraries and more. And therefore, some geeks actually go to work to rest.
Focusing now on the world of media, famous for its reliance on modern technologies, we can draw interesting contrasts between the business of broadcasting and the software and hardware developers who service this sector. Broadcasters, exceptionally, operate in a unique environment in which entertainment, creativity, excitement and enjoyment are present in abundance 24/7, and whose operatives, therefore, are observed to have less of a tendency to seek chill out escapism in order to get through their demanding, high pressure workloads. On the other hand, highly-qualified specialists on the technological and manufacturing side of the media sector tend to expect the full range of top-level executive amusements and toys, perhaps not quite to the Google level of sophistication, but certainly enough to meet their stressed-out, chill out requirements.
As an example, let us now have a look at the famous brand, Provys, and how they keep their programmers, IT consultants, developers, sales staff, etc., continually motivated in an ever-changing, fast-moving environment.
“Finding and keeping top quality staff is a continual challenge, especially when the demand for such employees is growing constantly.”
“We have adopted a number of strategies within our company to ensure that we attract the best of the best and then work continuously to keep them happy and motivated even though the work-life balance is more and more under pressure” says Monika Zabadalova, HR Recruiting Manager, Provys. “The work in our company is never boring and the concept of ‘routine’ simply does not exist. Our staff are frequently called upon to travel the world negotiating, analysing, developing, implementing, training and supporting complex projects and solutions, meeting a whole range of interesting colleagues, communicating in different languages, and always maintaining a positive attitude and a happy smile. Of course, their business life is heavy on adrenalin, often pushing the limits, yet requiring 100% reliability and professional calmness in the face of frequently unpredictable circumstances.”
Some twenty years ago, when Provys was little more than a start-up, the social area within the company consisted of only one kitchen with its obligatory coffee machine, water-cooler, fridge and dish-washer. Conversations took place here in between current projects and a small number of staff were relatively satisfied until their numbers started to grow. An additional kitchen was added with enhanced coffee facilities, soon to be followed by new offices, even better kitchens complete with multi-screen TV facilities, soft chairs, sofas and even more drinks and snack vending facilities. Trying to pander to their own intellectual capacities, the specialists started to bring in complex jigsaw puzzles for further entertainment in the kitchens. This showed management that the grey matter still required yet further, and alternative stimulation even when exhausted following hours of demanding, creative enterprise. This led quite logically to the establishment of the company chill-out room, furnished with comfortable chairs and sofas, large-screen TV facilities, a play-station with a wide assortment of games including their favourite, Formula 1, a dartboard and a collection of jigsaw puzzles, some of whose unbelievably complex templates originated in-house. Great things amuse great minds.
These great minds, in general, in the broadcasting industry are employed increasingly in ever more demanding specialisations which inherently leads to the necessity to take a rest and re-charge one’s batteries. Failure to recognise this need can result in “burn-out”, system instability and even increased staff turnover. Good managers must utilise every psychological trick in the book to recruit and keep the best employees, perhaps for the rest of their lives, and part of their magic includes the chill out or re-charge room.
Successful marriages last forever and the husband and wife both fully understand the underlying principles of their enduring relationship. We should consider exactly what these principles are because the same reasoning is also fundamental to any long-lasting commercial relationship, for example, in broadcasting. We all know that a bride-to-be will ask herself at least twice if the intended bride groom is really the right choice for her. In a way, the bride is the broadcaster who is considering the purchase of new, but expensive software to improve workflows in their media operations. The bride groom, i.e. the software supplier/developer, must make himself attractive, understandable, appropriate, adaptable, with a strong and pristine genetic and historical reputation together with good prospects. A well-developed sense of humour can also prove beneficial.
In the same way that the wedding is the gateway to marital integration and happiness, so in the hard world of broadcasting, all the same principles are tested to the limit and we can look now at how large system integration projects are managed with a view to creating commercial satisfaction. Following completion of a successful sale contract, the suppliers’ consultants will visit the organisation in order to analyse the existing workflows and future requirements of the new client. Long experience shows that in order to reduce the project workload, related costs and to increase transparency, it is advisable to first implement only the basic package which will almost certainly meet the immediate needs of the client. User training can now start, and during this period, further system options can be implemented. A gap analysis is then undertaken to assess the further detailed requirements of the broadcaster, allowing proper customisation, thereby saving considerable time and money which frequently arises when all aspects of the project are attempted together at the start. See the diagram.
“It is important to stress that certain conditions are required to be fulfilled prior to implementing the basic package.”
“These conditions include: perfect system documentation, thorough system testing and a clear roadmap for future upgrades” says Roman Barton, Head of Provys Project Teams, and continues: “following which, we implement the minimum viable solution with its standard features, no matter how large the broadcaster. This allows us to reduce the implementation risk factors whilst minimising the exacting demands of the deployment process.”
Current project management methodology, when engaged in the delivery of projects to worldwide customers, can be understood as a combination of the following inputs: best practice within the field of broadcasting software solutions; wide experience in terms of recognition of customer needs and understanding their specific requirements; and usage of proven project management principles while directing projects to their successful closure such as the Prince2 framework, SCRUM agile techniques, etc. These generic inputs are then further tailored in order to have the best fit for purpose solution for each identified project.
When selecting the way forward one should always take into account all relevant available information, such as the following: scope of implementation; reasons for the demanded change; size and organisational principles of the client together with their project management processes.
As the diagram shows, every project contains at least three project phases: Initialisation, Implementation and Go-live. It is also possible to add a customised development of completely new features to the implementation projects adjusting the roadmap accordingly. The core of the methodology uses the waterfall approach with a focus on the budget, timeline and technical scope control as these project characteristics are often demanded for a contractual agreement at the beginning, and estimates are calculated at early stages. When it comes to a detailed life-cycle of each project phase, the methodology also incorporates innovative approaches taken from agile techniques with a focus on frequent feedback from the customer through the early prototype presentations and an ever-changing backlog prioritisation as the solution advances to the acceptance and roll-out steps.
One of the most experienced developers in this industry, no doubt, is Provys from Prague, who have been active in such implementations since 1995 and are able to bring a wealth expertise and implementation skills to projects both large and small. Close adherence to the principles outlined above is the bedrock of their success with long term relationships in this complex marriage.
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