CommentaryThe Smartest Man In Television?

It's not you. It's not me. In fact, it's not anyone on this continent. The smartest man in television lives in France.

Iâve spent 18 years in this industry, and Iâve just realized that Christophe Scherer is probably the smartest man in television. Scherer is the directeur technique et informatique (IT and technical director to you and me) for France TZlZvisions PublicitZ, the advertising production subsidiary of national broadcaster France TZlZvision. Heâs got three channels of France TZlZvisions PublicitZ to deal with÷France 2, France 3 (including 31 local transmission sites), and France 5÷in addition to six thematic channels. Thatâs a French tour de force.

In January 2001, Scherer introduced an all-digital, disk-based architecture for France 5âs commercial playout. At the time, the system was based on SGI Origin 2000 servers. It now runs on an Origin 3200 server (a handful of Origin 2000 servers are now performing other duties) with two Sony Petasites, Grass Valley Profile servers (which will be replaced by a number of SGI Media Server for Broadcast systems), an SGI CXFS shared file system, a DMF (data migration facility), and other support equipment. So far, you might not be thinking that this is anything special...keep reading.

First, a little disclosure. I met Scherer on an SGI-sponsored press junket just after IBC. Iâve never really associated SGI with the traditional broadcast market÷theyâre a computer company. But it takes a computer company to be the prime contractor on something as complex as what Scherer had in mind. It didnât hurt either that SGI has hired some of the brightest minds in broadcast to join their team (especially when so many have a history with Sony).

Schererâs France 5 system allows commercials to be any length÷from three seconds to four minutes÷they can be removed or replaced up to one hour before airtime should the dayâs news, sports, or weather dictate a different spot. Commercial metadata can be managed so that traditional metadata as well as the content of a spot is available in an asset management system (running under Oracle software).

Care to add more to your logistical nightmare? Advertisers can resell their ad time. Want more? An extranet for advertisers and agencies to view a spot before it airs is also available.

Using Schererâs system, France TZlZvisions PublicitZ no longer has to send daily DigiBeta commercial reels to France 5, as spots travel via ATM and have the flexibility to move fast when commercial conditions change. The system works so well that France 2 is currently testing its system and France 3 (with its 31 transmission sites) is scheduled for testing in April 2003.

As a free service, the Sony Petasite, at 200TB, has housed all spots since the system went online, with a capacity of 52,000 30-second spots.

The big kicker: Soon, the extranet will allow advertisers and agencies to view a legal air-check online, up to eight days after the fact, with a minute-by-minute graphical link to ratings of the program and the commercial from French audience research firm MZdiamZtrie.


Want something cooler? Scherer is thinking of licensing the system to other broadcasters...outside of France, of course.

Did someone say centralcasting?

Michael Silbergleid is the editor. He can be reached at: