Tim Jobling, CTO, Imagen
In the broadcast industry, archive footage is an invaluable commodity that allows broadcasters and media production companies to build previous events and interviews into new programming. Commonly used in the news and sports coverage, archive footage helps to create a more compelling story and provides important context. For instance, in the build-up to The Masters, broadcasters will often use historic content from previous golf tournaments to add to the excitement, create a narrative and, sometimes, to ensure the programme is long enough to fill the time allocated to it. That said, many broadcasters experience significant challenges when trying to access archive footage, saved in different places across disparate systems or, most frustratingly, just being unable to find it.
Complications of storing and sharing
As broadcasters often have facilities across several locations, storing and sharing content amongst themselves and with other organisations, along with multiple users, can cause a substantial headache. Often, a number of databases or file sharing platforms are in use and content can’t be found easily. This content may then be impossible to recreate, or if it can be, it’s at a large cost to the business. Similarly, with employees for an organisation often spread out across the globe, there are ineffective systems in place to store and share content and once a person leaves the business, they also take their knowledge of where content is located with them.
In addition to this, with so much new content being created on a daily basis, the amount of archive material held by broadcasters is only increasing. While they may be able to overcome the issue of storing that footage, finding it again can present a whole new series of problems. For instance, how is it organised, what format is it in and how can they find specific video clips at any given time? With such a vast library, pinpointing a certain piece that contains a particular goal from the 1998 World Cup can become a mammoth task. So, how can broadcasters overcome these challenges and calm the headache the storage of archive footage presents?
Solving the problem
As the creation of new content builds, this has meant the amount of older material created by broadcasters and media companies has also increased. As a result, the size and scale of the problem they are dealing with in terms of the management and storage of content will grow only in tandem. To alleviate this, these organisations must look to implement a more robust cloud-based solution which will ensure their digital assets are not only protected but also reusable for the future. While this will require a small initial investment of time and money to implement, it is a low-risk, high-reward option which will allow broadcasters to safely store, search and share content internally.
There are a number of benefits to opting for a single digital solution, including giving broadcasters the push they need to digitise archive footage, which may currently only exist on film or video and which is therefore easily lost, damaged or destroyed. The need to preserve content is something most of us can relate to in our personal lives, with many of us likely to have old photo albums from our childhood or video tapes containing camcorder footage stored in shoeboxes or at the back of a cupboard. However, with so much sentimental value often attached to this content, most of us are willing to pay for a cloud solution that will allow us to digitise and store all this content in one place, giving us assurance of its long-term security. This idea also applies to broadcasters but on a much bigger scale and for them, footage being lost or damaged could result in considerable costs.
Adopting a video management platform also creates the opportunity to monetise content. As we have seen with nearly every major broadcaster, a wealth of programmes or footage stored online creates the potential for VOD services. Or, in the case of the BBC, it allows broadcasters to add another element to their existing services. As while BBC iPlayer has been around for more than a decade, it wasn’t until 2017 that the BBC added a ‘From the Archive’ section to the platform. This move saw the broadcasters add existing content, some of which dated back to 1946 and hadn’t been aired since it was first broadcast, to its existing platform. This allowed the BBC to add an extra element to its service and play into the growing trend of consumers going back to re-watch old boxsets or programmes, even if they’ve seen it before. This is something we have seen with the addition of the ever-popular Friends series’ to Netflix in the UK and the subsequent revelation that it had become the most popular show for streaming. While the majority of broadcasters won’t have a back catalogue on the same scale as the BBC, moving to a single, digitised catalogue of content can allow them to create platforms showcasing their content on a smaller scale and therefore create new revenue streams.
Ultimately, those that fail to address the challenge of storing existing content will only see the problem worsen and will feel the effects on the quality of their output. Yet, those that act and implement a new solution stand to benefit greatly from a more efficient system that not only grants peace of mind and ease of use but also the potential to create new revenue streams. As the broadcast industry becomes more competitive, with the launch of new streaming services and broadcasters fighting to the rights to sports events, film and TV series, the value of effectively managing historic content shouldn’t be underestimated.