For many OTT video distributors, rights management is a challenge. Given the alternative of lacking rights to manage, this is a good problem to have. But slow-paced integrations and makeshift solutions are creating costs and risks that competitive OTT players can ill afford.
Rights management traditionally requires interaction with one or more other systems, such as file delivery workflow solutions, media or digital asset management (MAM/DAM) systems, business management systems (BMS) or content distribution networks (CDNs). The time and expense of systems integration can be long and result in expensive projects. This has led some non-traditional broadcasters to build their own tools.
A typical DIY solution is the spreadsheet. But whether residing locally or on a shared drive, these familiar, tabular applications have their limits. It may be possible to link a spreadsheet to an ingest application, filter it for content and then push out the correct publishing information and video files. Yet the many components and manual steps involved create risks, and an asynchronous feed ingest, commonly used in these solutions, prevents timely updates.
There are more problems, especially with large catalogues. With deep rows of content and an expanding axis of columns for rights, time windows, types of devices, geo-location, number of streams, number of devices, digital rights management (DRM) and other variables, this approach becomes cumbersome, to say the least. Simply adding content from multiple rights holders with multiple contract periods can make the spreadsheet nearly impossible to manage.
So bolting rights management onto other systems takes time and money, and the downside of building your own solution is the potential for faulty operations, delayed updates and data overload. Then there is another drawback related to the content lifecycle.
Management of OTT content traditionally begins after ingest. But the rights management lifecycle starts earlier, when you first enter discussions for the acquisition of content. Contracts convey how the studio or sports team or other creative entity expects you to treat its content, from an initial online offering to close of the publishing window. Capturing those terms at the front end of the rights management process makes good sense, but that capability is hard to find among existing solutions.
Four desirable attributes
Having seen what has not worked so well, let’s imagine an alternative. A solid OTT rights management solution would require minimal if any integration; cover the end-to-end content rights lifecycle; limit manual steps and automate where possible; and scale up to handle the complexity of contracts, which serve as the initial inputs. With our work in this area in mind, we’ll focus on four attractive attributes.
Pre-integrated. The ideal rights management tool is not an isolated or point solution, but rather one aspect of an open framework for OTT delivery. That means that legacy broadcast management solutions are poor fits. Traditional MAM or DAM systems tend to be large constructs of proprietary technology, or a patchwork of off-the-shelf products meshed with custom developments. They can be monolithic, difficult to implement and light on rights management features. Adding tools to these systems is no quick or easy matter. A more contemporary platform that leverages cloud computing and open APIs, by contrast, can enable rapid deployment of new adapters and micro-services that better serve the fast-moving OTT video landscape. In our case, rights management is a module that plugs into a core CMS, which itself is built upon open, media platform APIs.
Comprehensive. An open platform allows for a wider range of internally integrated use cases that extend across the entire rights management lifecycle. When negotiating, for instance, a publisher should be able to use this kind of tool to track which rights they have and which they are seeking. The tool should be flexible enough to operate across multiple scenarios, regardless of how the rights holder distributes content (FTP, disk, etc.) or deploys metadata. Using standard HTTP-based information exchange protocols, the tool should share relevant and accurate contractual information in a publisher’s online offering. It should simplify the application of rights, licensing windows, and download rights, all the way up to un-publishing and content removal.
Automated. A broadcast-grade OTT rights management tool should streamline processes, while enabling configurations that reflect unique requirements. For instance, OTT distributors that lack strong broadcast suites should be able to use this kind of tool to optimize what might otherwise be manually heavy processes, such as ingest. Suppose an OTT operator is seeking five seasons of Breaking Bad, each of which contains twelve episodes. Rather than having to create an object for each of these 60 assets, a web-services enabled tool will allow the operator to elect and create all objects at once. For selected items, it should additionally enable easy application of rights; automated fetching, validation and publication of enriched metadata; one-button publication of content; and enforcement and tracking of contractual terms, including definite closing of the publishing window.
Scalable. The OTT video market is maturing, but remains dynamic. The likelihood of another SVOD provider reaching the size of Netflix may be slim, but the global consumer appetite for video continues to grow. Both new OTT distributors and well-established broadcasters, programmer and operators migrating to IP-enabled delivery may need to handle extensive libraries of copyrighted content and large numbers of viewers, especially within the linear video domain. For our part at Vimond, we are accustomed to very large customers, with large catalogues and hundreds of thousands of simultaneous viewers, and have designed our content rights management module, and underlying open platform, accordingly.
Don’t waste time
Rights were once an early gating issue for the OTT industry. The challenges of rights acquisition, indeed, influenced some providers to become studios themselves. The overall situation is different today.
While more available, rights can be challenging to manage, especially with homegrown tools or solutions tied to legacy platforms. To avoid spending unnecessary time on technology and logistics, OTT video distributors should consider managing content rights using an automated, scalable and end-to-end workflow within the framework of an open OTT distribution platform. Becoming the OTT broadcaster of today—and tomorrow—is a hard job. Make efficiency your watchword.
Published by The Broadcast Bridge