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Content creation in an IT world

The television and film industries produce high value rich media content. This specialized vertical historically employs proprietary technology and is very protective of content costing thousands of dollars per program minute. To offset costs and keep up with significant changes in digital technology studios and broadcasters use content factories to create up to 40 deliverables from a single program.

• Meaningful content is expensive to produce
• Data files are enormous, Gigabytes not megabytes
• Ongoing operations require a substantial investment in technology and infrastructure

Technical challenges

The continuing introduction of digital hardware and software technology results in complex workflows. Program acquisition, post production and transmission almost always involve mixing formats. The reality is we live in a multi-format world. Documenting workflows for 40 program deliverables moving through a broadcast plant is a significant challenge. Yet efficiency is only available after a through understanding of the sequence of operations required of the many disciplines involved in technical operations. The investment to implement new technologies continues to increase while ROI for legacy technology is shortened.

The driver for innovation

Hardware and software tools allow us to manipulate images, audio, video and interactive content almost as easily as text. Information Technology is the driver for innovation in the content creation sector. IT also makes anywhere anytime delivery of content possible. This sector has a significant interest in open architecture and provides us with the democratization of content creation tools. Comscore reports 183.8 million Americans watched 48.7 billion online content videos in January 2014. Today online video is the #1 content type. User generated content (UGC) now competes directly with entertainment, news and sports.

With such ease of access to UGC at little cost (other than an ISP fee), the internet is also redefining what copyright means in our society. There is a belief in popular culture that information wants to be free, that information should be free. Since consumers can create content on any camcorder, upload it to YouTube, and distribute a clip worldwide there is an increasing disparity in the valuation of content.

Even if one agrees that information should be free, access and form of information has never been free. (If you disagree just send us your bank’s pin number.) Although one can produce interesting content with a handycam and a MacBook, UGC does not sustain interest for more than a few minutes. Comscore reports “the duration of the average online video was 3.5 minutes.” Wonderful as it is to find that great clip, we go to professional content creators for long form material.

The barrier between content creation and IT

A handycam and a MacBook do not a content factory make. The professionals in our industry move hundreds of streams of data that comprise not only gigabytes, but terabytes and petabytes of data available to users almost on demand. Content creators have a right to be paid for premium content.

The open nature of the internet results in premium content being withheld as content creators struggle with ways to protect their intellectual property. Broadcasters and the studios favor proprietary, closed architecture in the form of set top boxes, cable cards, and enforcement of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Digital Rights Management (DRM) includes the introduction of advanced watermarking and encryption technology to address revolutionary ways IT technology allows us to access and view content.

Are IT and the Studios are really at odds?

IT’s primary contribution provides incredibly open access to almost unimaginable volumes of information. Broadcasters, the studios, and other premium content providers want a spigot, a remote hand on access to content. The pace of technological innovation impacts more than content alone, it also jeopardizes the very business models of traditional “bricks and mortar” content creators.

Monetization of content

Successful internet business models operate quite differently than traditional businesses. Innovation in this sector occurs with amazing speed, end users commonly access content free of charge. Monetization often materializes as the community grows. Advertisers find it essential to participate in these communities and are to some extent willing to pay. End users are happy to access content freely and find it acceptable to have their interests and preferences shared with advertisers. These models work.

In earlier times content creators established numerous subscription services placing the cost on the end user. These initiatives simply failed.

Disruptive technology holds the potential to change this paradigm. Consumers willingly pay a significant monthly fee for smart phones that are sometimes more expensive than monthly fees for cable or satellite television. The next disruptive technology may offer a user experience that is so outstanding users willing pay for premium content.
Internet providers and content creators need to learn to work together. Monetization will occur sideways, services that succeed will monetize content in ways that are transparent to the end user.

Originally published on my blog at Opus-Terra.net

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