Success requires managing assets across the entire content value chain

There’s much more to the issues confronting IPTV than how best to use network bandwidth to deliver the Triple Play services to stay competitive.

For example, how best can IPTV service providers manage all of the rights issues associated with delivering content to their subscribers? What’s the best way to track intellectual property ownership and content use? Throw video on demand into the mix, and intellectual property management gets even more complicated.

At last month’s NAB2007, Oracle Systems said it could help IPTV operators as well as other media and entertainment companies not just manage rights but also the entire content value change. IPTV Update spoke with Oracle Systems Business Development Director, EMEA Media and Entertainment, Christy Lally about the company’s approach.

IPTV Update: What is Oracle’s strategy in the media and entertainment market?

Christy Lally: We believe we are unique in being able to manage the entire content value chain. By that I mean right from the inception of content through to storage, search, retrieval and playout distribution, incorporating customer management, rights management and, critically, financial management.

We have a variety of products and tools that can do that based on our Service Oriented Architecture. In addition, we have a handful of critical partners that help us do this as well. So we cover the fundamental structure to enable media and entertainment companies to have a seamless management from inception to distribution.

IPTV: While Oracle has a long history, is this a new play for the company?

CL: I would say that media for us is a growing industry. You probably haven’t heard of Oracle much in this industry up until now, but that is changing. So for us, Oracle is entering the media and entertainment market place. However, in the communications industry — cable, IPTV and communications operators — we have been doing a lot of work over a number of years. In fact, in terms of applications, we are No. 1 in that industry at the moment.

Thanks to our progress over the past year or two as well as our strategic acquisitions in that area, we are finding that the move toward convergence in telecommunications is helping us to build our success in media. We know the people and the organizations that media companies cooperate and compete with, which help us understand their technology needs.

IPTVU: What was your underlying message for NAB?

CL: The underlying message was being able — end to end — to manage the entire content value chain and build new revenue channels and business models. The reality is in order to be able to deploy any business model you want, you must consider a number of pieces in that value chain.

As you examine the business requirements for broadcasters and other niche industries, you will note that most of them have siloed and/or stand-alone homegrown IT systems. These systems can’t manage to deliver the capability needed to meet today’s business requirements. With our Service Oriented Architecture, we have the components and products to bridge the gap to allow providers to do what they want to do.

IPTV: How does Oracle approach existing media operations, like broadcasters or IPTV operators, that have an existing technology infrastructure for production, business management, and traffic system with a Service Oriented Architecture and layer that in without disrupting ongoing operations?

CL: That’s absolutely critical and a hot topic right now. Just look at the statements from analysts. For instance, Gartner recently said Service Oriented Architectures would become mainstream in broadcasting by 2010. The whole key for us is to say, “Look, we need to be able to provide the technology based on open standards and based on easily coupling applications that can allow you to keep your existing applications that are working very well, that don’t force you to change your workflow, that model those workflows that are working successfully. Therefore, you add the applications and the products when and where they’re required.

But what’s exciting for broadcasters is if they go down this route with us, they are not hemmed into an Oracle environment. They always have the opportunity to choose any application that’s appropriate for their company. Naturally, we would hope where appropriate they would choose an Oracle application, but that doesn’t have to be the case. The starting point has to be a commitment to a flexible, open standards-based architecture.

IPTVU: Isn’t the essence of what drives this end-to-end media management the availability of metadata?

CL: It’s all about how we extract and deal with the metadata that’s created during the entire production process. How do we deal with the low- and high-resolution content that’s created? How do we get a clear view of the media or provide media asset management across all of the content that’s created?

Some of that content will be stored in a traditional video storage system, but the high-resolution content companies may choose to store in an Oracle database or just have it cached. Either way, the main point is to get a view of that content. The business benefit is you have a complete transparent view of 100 percent of content in the product catalog. Then providers can start to look at how they can exploit that and truly begin to optimize what they have.

Of course, the next issue stemming from that is intellectual property management.

IPTV: Could you please elaborate?

CL: Intellectual property management is going to be a huge area over the next couple of years. Certainly working with the telcos and the communications companies in general, that is something they really have not thought about as much as they should.

I think stories in the media like Viacom suing Google is certainly bringing that issue to life.

We are working with Sophoi, an intellectual property management software provider, to help broadcasters exploit their content and get them to the stage of saying, “Not only do I have a clear view of all the assets I have in my catalog, but I also have a solid understanding of the various rights associated with them. Where, when and how they can be sold.” Then broadcasters can begin to make business decisions about what is the best way to distribute and sell content. That is a Holy Grail for broadcasters and media companies in general.

IPTV: How is Oracle specifically approaching the IPTV market?

CL: Regarding the telcos, we have a service delivery platform (SDP) geared very much toward telecom companies. One of our customers is Telenor, the largest telecommunications operator in Norway. We’ve helped Telenor develop, map and distribute content.

Typically, the situation is that they’ve bought up rights from studios, production companies, etc., and they want to be able to distribute their content over their pipes to their customers.

We help them do that by providing the asset management system. A critical advantage of doing that is solving one of the main problems telecommunications companies have had, namely the length of time it’s taken to develop new services. That’s something our SDP is very much designed to help with. It can drastically reduce the time needed to develop and deploy new services.

Traditionally, telcos have bought up content rights and have acted as a distribution pipe. In terms of the intellectual property rights, they have to pay a sum of money to the content owner, and that’s pretty much it for the financial transaction.

The next step is where telecommunications companies want to become content players in their own right, and that’s where they buy up exclusive rights to be able to distribute content across a number of channels. Suddenly, they become responsible for administering the royalties for that content, which can be a huge headache for everyone, but particularly for new incumbents like telecommunications companies that are not experienced in this area.

So they will be faced with the need to administer and manage highly complex, differentiated content from diverse content providers with very specific requirements depending on the type of channel.

That’s where it becomes extremely complex, and that’s where they need a solution like Sophoi. So what we offer for the telecommunications companies is this: Our Service Delivery Platform, which is based on our flexible architecture philosophy, enables them to manage and distribute content and deploy services pretty quickly. The next phase of that is to start adding applications like intellectual property management via Sophoi so that they are able intelligently to start slicing and dicing that content for particular channels and demographics. That’s where the technology becomes a facilitator of new business models — rather than being something that restricts those — which has been the case with some up until now.

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