Harris' H-Class Platform for metadata usage

Figure 1. Typical broadcast model with operational focus on content metadata. Click here to see an enlarged diagram.

Most discussions on the role of metadata in the management of content have centered around broadcast operations or nonlinear content editing. Missing from these discussions is the larger role of metadata in the content lifecycle. For such discussions to be meaningful, metadata must be considered in a broader context, beyond its physical operational attributes such as titles, SOM, duration and encoding formats. One must consider the wider financial and business usage of the content, such as usage rights, cost and scheduling constraints.

Harris has developed an integrated approach to metadata usage and management that supports increased organizational efficiencies. Such efficiencies lead to increased operational scalability, a more cost-efficient mechanism to repurpose content and an ability to generate new revenue streams.

Beyond operations

Consider Figure 1. In its passage from the creator, content travels a disjointed path through departmental islands in the broadcast operation. While there are two major standards for metadata management — AAF and MXF — their focus is on production and operational efficiency.

However, consider the departments of programming, sales, material library, traffic and finance. All touch the content from a business viewpoint, yet each uses software applications that abstract and transact the content from their respective requirements, always distant from the content itself. This is a major cause of discrepancies and inefficiency.

Consider what those isolated software applications have in common. Each has a data structure that describes such things as the state of the content, i.e. has it been acquired, how and when it can be used, how much it costs, where the material is located, on what media, has it been dubbed, has it been paid, if it was profitable, if the spots were invoiced and many other issues that must be tracked in order for the business to be financially viable.

Consider Figure 2. The Harris H-Class Platform approach to creating an integrated content-model enables metadata usage for both business and operational control.

This approach is to ingest the metadata into the platform to ensure that business applications can access and manipulate metadata as required, all without jeopardizing the integrity of the air-ready content.

Platform technology

Import/export capabilities to all industry standard formats allow for maximum interoperability. However, within the confines of the platform, the content can be protected and reliably transacted by all departmental applications through the digital asset management system that is inherent in the platform architecture. It is this characteristic of the H-Class Platform that allows applications to transact metadata for multimedia business models. It also provides a business software layer that allows organizations to get the right content, to the right consumer, at the right time on the right device.

Harris developed the H-Class Content Delivery Platform using an n-tiered architecture with well-defined services that provide workflow-focused data to the calling application.

All database calls are handled by the platform, and only the required information is presented. This results in efficient data management and abstraction of the underlying data structures. The result is an environment that supports evolutionary changes to the system without disrupting the applications resident on the platform. Compare this to monolithic applications that must be reinstalled, retested, reintegrated, retrained and reconfigured every time a new version or feature is added to the operation.

Figure 2. Integration operation with platform-based common content metadata model. Click here to see an enlarged diagram.

This service-based approach represents a scalable architecture that actively encourages the integration of third-party software. It dramatically reduces the effort of system integration and subsequent maintenance.

Coupled with the inherent integration of business operations, it is not unreasonable to realize efficiency gains of more than 25 percent. This figure is consistent with management studies showing that organizations that are aligned with consistent strategies and support infrastructure realize efficiency gains of the same order.

Future opportunities

As broadcaster bandwidths increase, new opportunities to leverage content must be managed in a cost-effective manner. The economics do not allow for increased personnel to staff the increased management requirements of new channels and services.

Through the use of a content-focused platform, knowledgeable of business metadata, content-aware applications can allow organizations to scale for the increased volumes of content that will necessarily follow. This not only will present up-sell opportunities for subscription-based content, but also it will drive the advertising content pushed to them.

Taras Bugir is chief strategy officer of the software systems business unit within the Broadcast Communications Divison of Harris.