Commentary

From Days To Hours To Minutes

Imagine turning the water faucet on and never being able to turn it off. Eventually, a few things tend to happen. You get wet. Your stuff gets wet. If you're in an apartment and you live above people, the people below you get wet. Their stuff gets wet. You get the picture. To avoid drowning, the best way, of course, is to turn off that water, but, alas, you can't. It just keeps coming.

The ever-increasing amount of digital media content that continues to hurtle towards us is mind-numbing and there is simply no way that faucet is going to be turned off. Gone forever are the days that only a few talented people could create programming. Now, anyone with a digital camera, a laptop-based editing system, and a Web site (or, if you will, insert YouTube here) can post content (whether it's a real story as opposed to a fanciful clip I leave to you), and, shazam, it's available to anyone in the world. As a result, the amount of original programming is on the rise and the number of places where you can view this content is, simply by virtue of the Internet, on the rise.

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The amount of content that is being aggregated from sources to make it available for consumption is also dramatically increasing. The fact is, many organizations that own content simply do not have the capital budgets to transform that content from physical form (film or videotape) to digital. Naturally, if you can't make it available, you can't make money from it. And that's where organizations often turn to government entities. The give? "We'll give you access to all this content -- say news content -- and you can use it for any purpose other than commercial. In return, you give us digital files of all the content."

Fanciful? No, that actually is happening and it represents an amazing challenge: How do you aggregate content from multiple locations, ensure data confidentiality and data integrity, and inform everyone that files have moved from and to their required destinations?

And data integrity and confidentiality takes on important and critically new meanings when the content is to be used in legal proceedings. For example, Rwandan genocide survivor video testimonies being transmitted from country to country must be transferred in a way that bit-level hashing methods can be used to ensure that the data is exactly what was recorded in-country and at the point of origin. What, for example, would the ramifications be if, during court proceedings it could not be proven that the recordings were not tampered with?

And finally, while all this content continues to pour out and all around us, what are the business benefits of being able to acquire, process, and distribute digital files? Well, let's take a look at the old adage, "time to air." Getting content "to air" has, of course, been one of the mantras for broadcasters. An interesting modification of "time to air" is "time to consumer." I suppose one could argue that time to air has also connoted time to consumer, but the fact is that today they are inextricably linked as never before.

As simultaneously (as possible!), certain content holders desire to make their content available on as many screen types as possible. Certainly we experienced this during the 2008 Olympics and we are most likely to experience it with the 2010 World Cup. Think, for a moment of what happens when a sporting event or a nationwide singing or talent contest (insert your favorite program name here) occurs. There is a window of opportunity within which there is fairly intense demand for content.

With sporting and contest events, that period of time is typically 24-72 hours. How quickly that content can be made available after a satellite and terrestrially broadcast of the show is made often determines how much revenue can be generated. But what's really required from a content production, handling, and distribution perspective? The adoption of file-based workflows, changes to infrastructure to implement IT-centric systems of servers, networks, storage, and application-level solutions must all be in place in order to facilitate a digital end-to-end strategy for acquisition, transformation, packaging, distribution, and fulfillment.

Will it work? Yes, in fact, it does work. Implementing those systems, making the transition to file-based, transforming the business and technical processes of handling content from finished form to download-by-consumer form, in a real-world example, has enabled a significant content owner to accomplish a noteworthy feat in decreasing the "time from air" to the "time to the consumer."

Instead of drowning in content, it's time to understand the needs and systems that an ever-increasing amount of content requires in order to have a smooth-running digital media supply chain.

1 comment about "From Days To Hours To Minutes ".
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  1. Dyann Espinosa, September 29, 2009 at 4:31 p.m.

    Good depiction of the situation. Wonder if your background in "traditional" media gives you a better context for visualizing how this process might work. (not that AVID was traditional when introduced...)

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