Streamlined Policy Management Adds Reach to TV Everywhere

Ben Weinberger, CEO, Digitalsmiths

Ben Weinberger, CEO, Digitalsmiths

November 10, 2009 – As TV Everywhere becomes a pan-industry mantra applying to distribution of all types of video content to all types of devices a streamlined approach to implementing complex usage rules is becoming essential to efficient asset management.

One of many firms acting on this new imperative is Digitalsmiths, a supplier of digital media publishing services that has introduced "TV Everywhere capabilities" into its VideoSense management system to accommodate the complex rules that govern where content can and can't live. The VideoSense for TV Everywhere product incorporates new features for rights, metadata and advertising management that are necessary to determine who can watch which programs on which viewing platforms.

Support for such capabilities is now also part of TV Everywhere agendas undertaken by thePlatform, Brightcove and several other suppliers of Web video publishing services. ThePlatform, for instance, lets content owners manage business policies and rights management in the same Web console where they ingest content, enter metadata and publish their videos.

That means when content is uploaded with the data, surrounding business polices are implemented as part of the file. That can include availability dates, geographic limits, and commerce rules related to advertising, downloads or subscriptions. thePlatform customers like Associated Press, CNBC and Big Ten Network are using these capabilities, says company spokesperson Jeremy Pemble.

So is thePlatform's newest partner, the Travel Channel. Under that deal thePlatform manages where the network's Web programming lives across broadband and mobile platforms and syndication destinations like iTunes, MSN, YouTube, Verizon Wireless and others.

Brightcove says it's introducing new capabilities to let publishers distribute files along with customized metadata to nearly any kind of distribution partner – a sort of simplified rights management system. The Brightcove tools also enable plug and play with existing authentication and authorization systems.

But, for all the activity, the suppliers of content themselves still have a long way to go if they are to take advantage of the TV Everywhere opportunities. The old-fashioned spreadsheet-and-a-phone-call method that so many studios still rely on doesn't cut it in the fast-moving world where shows live and breathe across mediums, notes Digitalsmiths CEO Ben Weinberger. "I have been in studio offices where they make a phone call to say 'Can we put this on Hulu?'" Weinberger says.

That's a far cry from where content suppliers can go using new rights management technology. "With content and deal management we have a specific set of data we collect and manage with the rights issues. We know all the deal terms around a film or an episode or a sports broadcast," he said.

Specifically, the system can manage the windows in which a TV episode, as an example, is authorized to be delivered to iTunes, Hulu, a network Web site, a mobile phone, video-on-demand or other platforms. The goal with the advanced rights tools is to help studios and networks to wring more revenue from programming. By analyzing viewing patterns for programs across mediums, Digitalsmiths can project revenue opportunities that content owners are missing and may want to monetize, Weinberger explains.

"If you're putting a piece of content on iTunes, Hulu or a cable platform, you as the programmer know you can do this and manage all of that somewhere else," he says. "The issue is, this is not the case with many groups and they rely on a complex set of legal counsel and spreadsheets to tell them what they can and can't do with the content. In VideoSense, we show them visually everywhere they can publish for any given time period.  We also show them the missed opportunities where they could publish that either the deal terms prevented them, or they chose not to.  They can then make a decision going forward if they want to modify deal terms with partners to optimize revenue. "

Weinberger says one of the strengths of what Digitalsmiths is doing is its ability to apply the functions to a single piece of content for distribution across broadcast TV and Web outlets, unlike Web publishing platforms that are designed strictly to accommodate Web-based distribution. "We can deliver content for broadcast quality viewing up to full HD spec, dynamic streaming for Web viewing and content optimized for mobile viewing," he says. "We tell you that X show can be put on X, Y, Z and A-F channels, but not L-W, for the desired timeframes in specific formats.  We automate the entire process."

To expand the usefulness of the platform for all sides of the TV Everywhere authentication process where subscription content is involved Digitalsmiths has partnered with technology provider and sometime competitor Extend Media. Under that partnership, Digitalsmiths authenticates content to the publisher, while ExtendMedia authenticate users to the content.

The partnership makes sense because of Digitalsmiths' work in video analysis, indexing, metadata creation and search, says Chris Gardner, chief marketing officer for ExtendMedia. In addition to running consumer-facing video services for studios and other outlets, ExtendMedia is also running the TV Everywhere business for Bell Canada. "We also have several additional operator customers on board now," Gardner says. "Our carrier deployments typically require us to manage services on set-top boxes, Web-connected HDTVs, PCs and mobile devices."