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 email@example.com . 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.
Once again, NAB rolls off the calendar in Las Vegas from April 8 to 11 and diaries are rapidly filling up in this connection. For those unfamiliar with the layout of the NABSHOW in Vegas, the densest crowds are to be found in the South Halls, diminishing somewhat through the Central Hall, and finishing up with a most pleasing and comfortable ambience in the North Hall where both exhibitors and visitors can cool down and actually hear each other as they discuss the latest aspects of management systems for the media industry.
“Among these media management aspects, the aware visitor will also be delighted to find unexpected gems of technical wizardry, inspirational guidance, friendly presentations and even a secret source of Czech premium beers”.
Nesting among these gems (Booth N5215), the curious broadcaster will discover the latest technological developments from the world renowned Provys stables, famous for workflow management solutions from planning to content delivery. System integrators and project consultants are strongly recommended to visit the booth, alone or with their existing and potential clients, irrespective of their size, in order to introduce them to the latest money-making and money-saving software solutions specifically aimed at improving media organisational efficiency and effectiveness. Such new developments include a benchmarking tool which will enable broadcasters to compare in advance the potential profitability of a range of content, and from that select the optimum programmes for their channels.
Potential visitors are urged to book an appointment in advance at firstname.lastname@example.org (please note that complimentary beers will be served after 5 pm).
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.