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DAM industry shows signs of growth

By most accounts, the sixth annual Henry Stewart Digital Asset Management (DAM) Symposium held in New York City last week was a success. While it revealed the many lingering questions surrounding the implementation of the technology, everyone agreed that hearing war stories from the likes of ABC, BBC, CNBC, CNN, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, NBC Olympics, Universal Music Group and The Walt Disney Company was beneficial to all in attendance.

The two-day conference, which followed a similarly robust gathering in Los Angeles in November, attracted about 440 attendees, or about 33 percent more than last year’s New York event. This growth reflects the increasing needs for DAM technology and the recognition among media organizations that this is the only way to effectively manage and control content.

Though the business models of the companies in attendance may be different — including advertising, aerospace, broadcasters and soft drink companies -- the technology involved with metadata and the workflow benefits are common to them all. Event organizers said the Henry Stewart DAM conference provides a gathering place for project leaders from a variety of industries to come together and share information.

“It’s a case study-driven environment that everyone seems to like,” said Kieron Osmotherly, managing director of the Henry Stewart DAM symposium. “It helps an asset management project leader optimize an existing project or someone who is new to the space and is trying to get their head around what asset management is and how it can help their business.”

Indeed, many attendees and panel presenters echoed the latter point, as the issue of how to implement a system that solves a myriad of problems and serves multiple users and delivery platforms continues to elude those trying to make existing technology work.

“Managing available bandwidth is a critical issue,” said Joel Kanoff, director of video resources and digital archives at ABC News. “There are many ways to do it but no standard or common method and that has hurt what we’re trying to accomplish at ABC.”

Kanoff also said that a DAM system has to address the needs of multiple users on a network, each with their own specific requirements of how they want to get their job done. That can be tricky to get right. ABC is currently working on an internal media asset management system it has dubbed “MARS.”

Several conference participants said that larger broadcast organizations such as CNN and Turner Broadcasting System have embraced the idea of repurposing and distributing content in interesting ways, but mid-size stations have not been able to justify the cost and complexity inherent in a DAM system. Peter Humphrey, a consultant to the NBC Olympics group, said they’re going to put a rudimentary system in place on site in Athens and “see what happens. We haven’t had a lot of time to prepare, but we’re confident that NBC could not do as good a job with Olympics coverage without some type of media management system.”

Mike Starobin, senior vice president of production and post for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, said his company’s biggest challenge is dealing with the wide variety of analog and digital video signals and file formats that come into their facility each day to support six different TV shows. They currently use Virage software for logging content and have also tried voice recognition software, but with little success.

“The software recognizes Martha’s voice but no one else’s, so it makes it hard to retrieve individual segments,” he said, adding that they see video-on-demand and broadband access to content as the two main reasons to set up a DAM system. “The real problem for us has been creating tools that address our specific issues. There are several generic systems, but they take a lot of effort and money to get them to work for you. We’ve found that you really need a good team that knows how to implement this stuff. Luckily, at Martha Stewart we do.”

Artesia Technologies, one of the exhibiting manufacturers, makes software to automatically manage a database in a highly customizable way while addressing copyright issues. An Artesia representative spoke about the need for stations to rethink how they archive and manage their stories and program elements. The biggest benefit a DAM system holds for small stations is in the repurposing and marketing of content for distribution beyond the TV screen. Blue Order, another exhibitor that gave an insightful presentation on the value propositions of DAM, was in full agreement.

Yet, there’s no doubt that progress in the area of DAM is being made on a number of fronts. “I think some of the questions being asked about DAM are changing, which shows that the industry is progressing,” said Osmotherly. “Last year, we were talking about the fundamental business model and how you build that. This year, we’re seeing pilot projects being upgraded and expanded. We’ve seen some key advancements of the technology in the past year, and that’s only going to grow with time.”

He said that a lot of manufacturers have been “posturing for a long time,” stating that they offer asset management technology, when in fact it only provides a small piece to the overall puzzle. “I look at the current NAB exhibitor list, and I don’t consider a lot of them to be major asset management players.”

Osmotherly said there are about 30 companies that directly address the DAM space in the truest sense of the term. He said “asset management” refers to the handling of program elements and administrative functions. “Content management” closely describes a repository of complete programs, and that’s where the financial value for most companies lies.

“I think there are probably a lot of stations practicing some type of asset management workflow without being aware of it,” Osmotherly said. “While they haven’t put a label to it, they probably are aware of the content they own in their archives and the value of it. Virtually everyone gets the idea; it’s just a matter of money and time necessary to put a DAM system into place. As an industry, this is an inevitable evolution for everyone; it’s just a matter of time.”

Other presenting companies at the Henry Stewart conference included BBDO, Boeing, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Coca Cola, Disney Feature Animation, Ford, HarperCollins, Hearst Magazines, NASA, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Ogilvy & Mather, Scripps Networks, Time Magazine, Warner Bros. etc. Sponsors included Adobe, Artesia, IBM, Interwoven, Quark, WAM!NET, WAVE, and WebWare.

The next Henry Stewart conference is planned for Los Angeles in November, although no venue has been named as yet. For more information, visit www.damusers.com.

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