The broadcast industry is the same as any other in terms of its needs to purchase material, turn out products and services, and sell efficiently to customers. It requires additional flexibility from the hardware and software companies that serve it because of its global nature and the rapid changes and expansion it undergoes.
The Hallmark Channel, for example, began as a small, entrepreneurial service and has grown to serve more than 100 million customers – 50 million in the United States and 50 million in 120 countries – with 26 channels.
Mike Rosen, a scheduler for the Hallmark Channel, uses the new Perspective integrated broadcast management system, which has content preparation and management, scheduling, and ad sales all in one system.
As recently as two years ago, the channel relied on separate, internally developed systems for critical functions such as scheduling, programming, media management, pricing and ad sales.
Suddenly, with six offices in the United States – and more around the world, including in the UK, Australia, China, Singapore and Taiwan – having separate systems meant that data from the international offices had to be entered three times into the different machines, none of which could talk to the others.
Mistakes were not uncommon, and it was clear that the channel required an integrated, updated solution that fit its processes. A solution was needed that would encompass content preparation and management, scheduling, and ad sales, and that would function within our new territories. This included areas such as South East Asia, where extra linguistic characters were required in addition to currency conversions for more sophisticated ad sales. While the requirements stipulated a product that matched our needs precisely, we also had a preference for a robust product that would work almost out of the box.
Among several options available at the time was the Perspective (v5.2) integrated broadcast management system from UK-based MSA Focus. Understanding workflow and strategic planning are central to the system’s architecture, and MSA Focus collaborated closely with us to ensure accurate input into the system model.
Fundamental components that feed overall asset management are program, promotional, commercial and media libraries, all of which are located at the Denver HQ and can be accessed remotely via a broadband VPN from any of the channel’s global offices. A crucial component of the system is an audience ratings monitor that reports into both the program library and ad sales module to determine the consequent program and commercial schedules accordingly and automatically process ad sales invoices.
The program management system requires constant updates, and Perspective provides this with support for PPV/NVOD. It also displays full TX history and amortization updates, as well as conducting comprehensive content searches and including metadata such as rights management on programs.
Maureen Craig, programmer, (right) for The Hallmark Channel teaches Sara Hardesty, scheduler, about the Perspective integrated broadcast management system.
Similarly, while the promotional library uses separate scheduling rules, it provides critical information such as music rights and sponsorship packages, and also links directly to program acquisition. The commercial library adds further features, including links for our clients and their products for enhanced CRM, a purge list, and a banner insertion function for ads streamed on the Web.
As well as interfacing with all third-party products, which was invaluable not least for secure data conversion from our legacy systems, the integrated broadcast management system also features ActiveX, which allowed us to customize our graphical user interface to a Windows-based configuration with familiar drop-down menus, minimizing the need for technical training and offering further economy.
MSA Focus has worked closely with us throughout the installation and implementation of Perspective and has been instrumental in achieving our goals.
Now, using one system instead of five, our efficiency and uniformity of operations has increased and our ad sales generation has increased at many of our facilities. We now perform more tasks with fewer resources than before and are reaping the benefits of our investment.
Mark Thompson is senior vice president, finance and IT, of The Hallmark Channel.