“In order to monetize a video asset you have to hold the rights to sell it.” This observation by Ed Klaris, founder of Klaris IP, a law firm specializing in securing intellectual property rights, should be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, applying it in today’s omniplatform world for content delivery actually requires a great deal of consideration.
Profitable rights management is even more complicated for TV stations. “They are both creators and purchasers of content that can be monetized across multiple digital media platforms,” points out Eivind Sandstrand, corporate business manager of Arvato Systems North America. “Rights determine the schedule, so that the content reaches the right audience on the right screens, faster and anywhere.”
Sandstrand moderated a discussion on “Effective and Profitable Rights Management in the Multi-Source and Multi-Platform World” at MFM’s Media Finance Focus 2016 conference in May. The topic was a natural follow-up to a session he had organized for last year’s conference addressing the importance of having an integrated approach toward digital asset management.
Adopting A Strategy For This Special Beast
In addition to the legal considerations provided by Ed Klaris, this year’s session included insights from Tom VanBenschoten, VP of Edge Technology’s media practice. VanBenschoten used the analogy of Fenway Park’s famed “Green Monster” — a 37.2-foot-high wall standing just 310 feet from home plate, to illustrate the challenges and opportunities presented to TV stations and other media providers who are looking to fully monetize their media assets.
“Playing at Fenway Park requires both different offensive and defensive strategies compared to most other ballparks. That’s also true for effective property rights management.”
In VanBenschoten’s analogy, the Green Monster represents the spike in both expenses and revenue that occurs around a live event or the release of a native video asset. While the production’s expenses quickly taper off, an asset can yield long tail revenue many years following its creation.
From an offensive strategy standpoint, content owners need to ensure they can reap that long-tail value by possessing all of the rights required for selling it. VanBenschoten said an “extreme example” of this principle occurred when the 1984 movie Purple Rain starring Prince was reintroduced in theaters to sellout crowds following the artist’s death in April.
Both offensive and defensive strategies came into play when AntennaTV wanted to bring back full episodes of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. In addition to changing the title to Johnny Carson to address NBC’s ownership of The Tonight Show name, music rights needed to be secured before the family-owned Carson Entertainment Group could monetize 30 years’ worth of the popular show’s full-length episodes.
Addressing The Complexities Of Omniplatform Content Delivery
Of course, music isn’t the only aspect of intellectual property that must be owned or licensed. There are:
- “Elemental” rights for the actors, directors and writers.
- Rights for any film footage that may have been incorporated into the asset.
- “Rights in” and “rights out” for content that’s been licensed from elsewhere.
- Rights governing media platforms, such as the right to distribute content to other countries or digital media devices.
Adding to the complexity is the need to clear and ensure intellectual property rights at the pace of today’s digital media. With a growing number of stations using social media platforms to complement their own on-air and online broadcasts, they must ensure all of the rights are in place within the very short timeframe determined by the content’s relevance to the viewer.
When considering long-tail content that stations can monetize, VanBenschoten gave the example of direct-to-consumer content. In this category he included birthdays and tributes marking an event of local historic significance. There are also business-to-business market opportunities, such as public affairs and news programming that can be used by community organizations and corporate recruiters.
“Millennials are the clip generation and TV stations have nearly 70 years of valuable video content in their archives.”
Optimizing Property Management Processes
Klaris IP’s Ed Klaris suggests harnessing the power of digitally savvy fans to compliment a station’s efforts around tracking and marketing IP-based distribution of its video assets. “Let your viewers crowdsource metadata and metatags; it will help you to distribute and promote your content.”
Klaris told conference attendees that these are the six most common errors in rights management:
- Choosing a rights management system before assessing your organization’s needs and knowing the gaps that it can’t address.
- Demanding that the new system fits within your existing workflows.
- Failing to address the integrity of data (“garbage in/garbage out”).
- Not budgeting for data cleanup.
- Failing to learn from the experiences of others.
- A failure to communicate across departments.
To avoid these pitfalls, Klaris suggests “six ways to succeed” in effective IPM (Intellectual Property Management):
- Use industry resources to learn from others.
- Given that each original asset, such as a brand-name or a musical score, will have branches that could include derivative uses, including toys and musical reproductions, take advantage of standard rights languages (governing royalties, distribution, and other areas) for the native and derivative uses which comprise each asset’s rights tree.
- Assess the current state of your IPM processes and define goals for what you want to accomplish.
- Decide how far back into your archives you should go — understand the quality and value of historic data.
- Do your homework — know what to look for in a rights management system and evaluate the systems based on current and future needs.
- Be prepared to make workflow changes to fit the new system and create a plan for the resources required to optimize its use.
The Core Competencies Of Effective IP Management
Klaris concluded by saying an effective intellectual property rights management solution should demonstrate four core competencies:
- Know: the ability to assess, prioritize, and order intellectual assets.
- Protect: acquire adequate rights, register them, and enforce your intellectual property restrictions.
- Value: properly and accurately value your intellectual property and related data with a recognized financial model.
- Monetize: create or widen the revenue streams for your video assets through innovation, M&A activity and/or partnering though licensing and joint venture agreements.
Driving Business Opportunity
Picking up on this last competency, Arvato System’s Eivind Sandstrand added: “To become a strategic asset, IP management has to be approached with a different mindset than what it typically is today. Manual processes for checking contracts with offline calculations will not scale or keep pace with the demands of today’s multi-channel content delivery model.”
As Sandstrand went on to point out, TV stations and other media providers can optimize the revenue derived from original and licensed content through automated solutions that allow them to take advantage of a growing number of live and on-demand content delivery methods. With the potential of ATSC 3.0 to significantly increase those opportunities, this is a great time to ensure your station’s property rights management systems and processes are up to the task.
Where are you with IPM? At the Media Financial Management Association we are constantly working to be the definitive resource for industry education for today’s media business professional. If you have experience or additional suggestions, please share them in the comments section below.
Mary M. Collins is president and CEO of the Media Financial Management Association and its BCCA subsidiary. She can be reached at [email protected]. Her column appears in TVNewsCheck every other week. You can read her earlier columns here.