Modern Times Group (MTG) is an innovative multinational broadcaster, headquartered in Sweden. MTG used a move of location to take a completely fresh look at the way it migrated to a complete, file-based workflow environment and implemented a media asset management metadata-driven system which enables automated workflows and the ability for everyone to work collaboratively.
Today it has two playout locations: London is the main centre, with a secondary centre in Riga, Latvia. Its ambitions are global and delivers around 110 channels in 130 countries worldwide from its playout centres in London and Riga.
The channels are a mixture of live (requiring potentially complex manual intervention), and thematic (all the channels need to be localised by country and by sub-region), for advertising and language. The London site is the Group’s central hub for media planning, acquisitions and creative services, as well as originating 10 free to air and 10 pay channels for the Nordic region. These channels required audio in eight languages, and subtitling in a total of 14 languages. The Riga site plays out channels to the Slavic and Eastern European markets, both sites provide disaster recovery facilities for each other.
The London broadcast playout centre needed to relocate from the existing premises in West Drayton to a new purpose built site in Chiswick Park. As existing technology was largely life-expired, the opportunity was taken for a complete refresh of the core technology and to implement a completely new architecture both operationally and technically.
The business needed to deliver more services, including online and catch-up services to its audience without increasing its Overheads.The business required a single, unified view of the whole operation. Replacing the numerous bespoke spreadsheets that had become the norm for metadata exchange as the operational teams struggled to overcome issues with their old legacy systems and operational silos.
The new London site had to be capable of supporting the current 20 channels plus the addition of expanded online and catch-up services from day one while providing a flexible, scalable platform for the future expansion of MTG’s services.
MTG wanted to automate as much of its processes as possible to improve the efficiency of their operations and allowing staff to concentrate on more value-add activities. For this, it specified the use of a single metadata structure and asset management system, capable of implementing automated workflows.
During the relocation the company needed to maintain its existing services. Finally, it required full integration with the centre in Riga. This had to be seamless, and support an “ingest anywhere, play anywhere” policy, moving content and metadata between sites as required.
Broadcast Centre Europe (BCE) was appointed as system integrator of the project. Together with MTG, they analysed the market for suitable tools that would achieve their business goals.
The resultant design put a TMD Mediaflex-UMS asset management system at the heart of the architecture. This would act as the workflow orchestrator, using metadata to automate processes with Mediaflex’s innovative Content Intelligence logic, tracking content through the required workflows providing MTG with real time reporting on media status, and integrating with MTG’s existing and new business systems provided by the 10 other vendors involved in the project.
Principal among the other vendors was Pebble Beach Systems, which supplied its large-scale Marina automation solution. The resulting tight integration between Mediaflex-UMS and Marina delivers seamless data flows from scheduling through to both Linear and Non-Linear playout, with Mediaflex-UMS ensuring online deliveries are prepared in advance of Linear TX ready for release at precisely the right time.
The TMD Mediaflex-UMS system includes a simple, user configurable workflow designer. This ensures that workflows are precisely configured for the way that MTG works, and incorporates the appropriate business rules to achieve commercial success. As new or customised workflows are required, they can be easily and quickly set up and tested by MTG’s own staff, ensuring that business opportunities are addressed in a timely fashion and benefits are maximised without the need for additional staff or delays in processing.
All MTG staff work on the Mediaflex portal, which presents a unified view of the operation. Because Mediaflex-UMS screens can be customised, each user’s screen presents only the relevant information required to be actioned by them at that point in the workflow. Users are never confused or distracted by overloaded screens and information they do not need.
As a second stage to the project the TMD Mediaflex-UMS system was extended to the MTG facility in Riga and integrated to that sites existing Pebble Beach automation. This new project included considerable work to allow the two sites to be fully interworking, essentially as a single logical unit. Content can be delivered to, ingested, catalogued and launched into service at either location for any channel. In terms of disaster recovery, either site can take over all channels for the other in an emergency.
DATA TAKE ON
Prior to the move, a lot of operations in the scheduling, rights management, and playout process were carried out in silos. Many were on spreadsheets, which while being far from ideal had become the way individual departments worked. One of the key goals of the new system was to provide a single, unified view of the whole operation, This meant transforming a lot of existing metadata into a common form and migrating it from existing legacy silo systems to the new Mediaflex-UMS platform.
TMD worked with MTG to determine the best ways of working in the future. By looking at the bigger picture it was practical to determine who did what and when in the value chain, and then to ensure that they were presented with just the metadata they needed to do their job.
Obviously keeping all the metadata in one place makes for more simplicity and security in operations, as well as joined-up decision-making. To achieve that, though, all the existing data had to be validated and migrated.
Over the previous 25 years, MTG has accumulated a lot of data in disparate systems. This data was not in an optimised state, and certainly didn’t conform to any standard .
TMD carried out a careful analysis of the legacy data and provided a programme to systematically validate and migrate this data into the new unified metadata schema. The challenges of this process cannot be underestimated, but TMD, drawing on experience gained form previous projects created a fully validated, useable, searchable and manageable structure from the legacy data which was then incorporated into Mediaflex’s extensible data model. Together the consolidated data allows content and business activities throughout the organisation to be used, repurposed and monetised through a single system.
MTG are the experts in what their business needs to achieve, whereas TMD are the experts in their product and have over 15 years of experience in deploying MAM projects for broadcast and media companies. The challenge for successful delivery is to combine the knowledge and experience from both sides to produce the specific solution that is right for MTG, delivering against the business needs and maximising the ROI on the Mediaflex-UMS system. TMD have a wealth of experience in deploying MAM systems for a wide range of clients, and have a proven approach and methodology for addressing this challenge.
During the definition phase of the project, TMD was encouraged to challenge MTG to ask why they were doing something, or why they were doing it in a particular way. The idea was to get a set of working principles on how MTG would meet its commercial goals in the most efficient way, thereby delivering the maximum return on investment for the new technology.
In any business which has been established for over 25 years, like MTG, there are inevitably a set of deeply-ingrained practices. Frequently they were dictated by the technology in existence at the time those practices were developed. In the modern, file-based, software-defined world there is probably a better ways to do things.
New ways of working may be better because they are more accurate, minimise manual work, or they open up new ways of working with the content. These are all valuable commercial goals for the business, but they also lead to staff being more fulfilled and satisfied with their work.
The asset management and workflow capability also allowed some tasks that were previously manual and cumbersome to achieve to be automated and streamlined. A good example is audio dubbing and subtitling.
Previously work orders were managed through Excel, and adding the finished files to the original content was a manual process. Now it is fully automated, and the files are associated with the original content via the asset management system’s metadata.
MTG used a move of location to take a completely fresh look at the way it works. It implemented a metadata-driven system which enables automated workflows and the ability for everyone to work collaboratively. TMD's Mediaflex-UMS enabled MTG to see the bigger picture, and map their practical workflows to their commercial goals, not allow themselves to be constrained by the technology.
The efficiencies brought about by the new system allows the company to do more within the organisation with the same number of employees. More content can be handled from ingest to delivery, and more can be done with it, empowering new and innovative online and non-linear services.
The links with the secondary playout centre in Riga mean that content can be seamlessly shared, one site can act as a client to the other, and in the case of disaster the whole operation can be run from a single site.
Now implemented, MTG has complete ownership of the system. As they have new commercial requirements, so they can use the tools within Mediaflex-UMS to design their own workflows, creating the optimum operations to meet their business goals and increase their effectiveness in the future.