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TVN Tech | Automation Becomes Major Multiplatform Tool

Automation technology is fast evolving to keep up with demand for content on multiple platforms. Vendors say it helps eliminate redundant tasks and integrates as many platforms as possible without posing a threat to jobs or creative control.

As demand for content on multiple platforms grows, broadcasters like  Euronews have harnessed the power of automation to explode their content creation capabilities without requiring additional personnel. News content is leading the pack with the uptake of production automation services, but nonscripted programming is rapidly embracing the technology.

Broadcasters are finding that not only can newsroom control system (NRCS) automation create complementary content, it can use artificial intelligence to produce content, it can eliminate repetitive work and decrease the number of steps a journalist must carry out to complete a task.

Production automation takes stories the distance and can manage rights and ad insertion. It also brings in overall efficiencies. Automation is no longer something to be feared, one expert contends, and another believes automation is only as good as the people behind it.

One of the major changes and challenges broadcasters have faced in the last few years is the explosion of demand for content across multiple platforms. Frederic Roux, VP sales, Americas at Dalet Digital Media Systems, says the strategy Euronews took to meet that demand was based on fully automating the newsroom.

Historically, Euronews had one channel that was translated into 13 other languages, but the organization wanted 13 independent channels with individual angles or content, he says. Euronews rebuilt the whole newsroom workflow around a workflow engine that automates the assignment and packaging of the content.

“Instead of the same story 13 times with 13 different languages, they had 13 stories with different angles” observing local and cultural sensitivities airing over 13 independent channels, Roux says. Euronews achieved that, he adds, without needing to “multiply by 10 the production capacity” and embracing automated workflows instead.

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Further, the organization needed to provide complementary content across multiple platforms, including social media, the web and over the top. A transformation like Euronews’ calls for rethinking current production capacity and leveraging automation to multiply capacity, he says.

The demand for content on multiple platforms can be met through two strategies: repurposing content that has already aired — what Roux calls “a game of publish once and distribute to many platforms” — or creating different formats of the story that complement rather than repeat each other.

Ray Thompson, Avid’s director of product marketing for broadcast and media solutions, says broadcasters are now looking at how they can “create an OTT factory” and what infrastructure they need to properly deliver content across multiple platforms by using automation while making sure fake news isn’t disseminated.

They are, he says, starting to migrate operationally to IP-based workflows, which will lower costs, and migrating some workflows into the cloud.

“We’re also starting to see broadcasters adopt things like artificial intelligence to produce content, but also to enhance metadata around their content to improve searchability,” Thompson says.

One of the draws of automation is its ability to eliminate redundant tasks. Andy Wormser, the Associated Press director of product design and operations, Americas, says AP’s ENPS is intended to help journalists reduce steps and avoid repetitive manual work, such as correcting text from all caps to mixed case when a story is repurposed from broadcast to other platforms.

Because of the number of specialized tools journalists require to carry out their jobs, the key to reducing steps is to integrate as many platforms as possible, says Jenn Jarvis, marketing product manager for editorial and asset management at Ross Video.

“If 90% of the tasks can be done in one user interface, that’s game changing,” Jarvis says. “We’re not quite there yet, but the goal is to integrate as much as possible into that home user interface that most journalists are logging into at the beginning of the day.”

Gene Sudduth, national sales director at Octopus, says journalists want to do as much as they possibly can without opening additional windows or applications.

“Needing to go outside the core application to find content and reference material is one frustration,” he says. “The idea is to increase efficiency and to allow them to do everything they need to do within a single application.”

Pennsylvania cable channel BRC TV 13, he says, recently went from a workflow that involved manually preparing graphics, executing playout and building playlists to adopting Octopus and stepping forward into a completely MOS-driven workflow.

Content created must be produced, and Aveco CEO Jim O’Brien calls production automation the broadcast industry’s “best opportunity for ongoing great growth.”

ETV Bharat in India is using Aveco’s news production and playout platform to serve 5,000 journalists and 24 OTT channels. It went on air in March and O’Brien believes ETV Bharat shows how to “accomplish great news coverage on air and online with unprecedented efficiency and quality production value.”

Neill Strickland, solution architect at Vizrt Professional Services, says “everybody’s trying to get a slice” of OTT advertising revenue. “Automation pays for itself,” he says.

Alex Holtz, director of strategy and market analysis for Grass Valley, says networks and stations are now using production automation for live entertainment creation, breaking news, events and other unscripted applications.

Strickland observes that sports programs are increasingly turning to production automation.

“You wouldn’t normally have considered automating a sports show,” Strickland says, because they don’t have fixed formats. A system like Vizrt’s Mosart makes it possible to preload the graphics and B-roll as well as build a show outline, he says.

Mike Paquin, marketing product manager for automation and control at Ross Video, calls automation a misnomer. “It’s not like a car factory. It’s more of a tool that automates all the pieces and components of your show. You still have control of the show. When you decide to do one thing, it executes that action. It’s more of an assistant.”

For example, automation executes rights management, ad insertion and platform requirements with ease, Holtz says.

Automation can deliver business efficiencies, particularly in a situation where an organization is looking to consolidate operations but doesn’t want to jeopardize individual station identities in their markets, says Jason Weintraub, Sony’s product manager for media solutions and live production systems.

Cloud technology is “important” in all the solutions Sony is offering, Weintraub says. “In years past, the cloud was a very scary place for people to get too embedded in,” he says. They worried what would happen if the cloud went down, he says, but are becoming more comfortable with the cloud and moving content around in it.

Vizrt’s Strickland says nobody should fear automation. “It can empower your production,” he says. “Treat it as a tool that enables you to produce more content, smoother content, with less on-air errors.”

People mistakenly worry that automation takes away from their jobs, he says. “It doesn’t. It can enable people to do more content creation,” Strickland says. “If you adopt it and learn to love it, it’s a system that can empower your content, your broadcast.”

Paquin says one of the biggest challenges Ross faces with organizations that have not moved to production automation with Overdrive is a fear of relinquishing creative control and perceived flexibility.

“People who have used it and made the switch can tell you immediately that is not the case,” he says.

Jarvis says many broadcasters aren’t sure what they want out of automation, and that automation on its own doesn’t solve problems.

“It’s the job of technology to cut out the middle steps, the redundant steps, make things faster and more efficient, but at the end of the day we still need people who are making decisions, who are pushing content forward,” Jarvis says. “Automation is only as good as the people who are behind it pushing the buttons, triggering actions and making the decisions.”


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