UK companies reach deal on common file format

Leading UK broadcasters, including the BBC and Sky, have agreed on a common format for file-based content delivery using the EBUCore metadata standard, setting the stage for similar deals in other European countries. The landmark file format pact was reached by the Digital Production Partnership (DPP), which includes the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky, Channel 5, S4C and UKTV, setting the UK's first common file format, structure, and wrapper for the file-based delivery of programs.

Kevin Burrows, Channel 4 Chief Technology Officer of Broadcast and Distribution and DPP member, spoke at the Production Technology Seminar taking place at the EBU (European Broadcast Union) headquarters in Geneva.

“The DPP worked very closely with the EBU on achieving this file format, mapping its metadata to existing EBUCore and TV-Anytime metadata sets,” Burrows said. “This is a leap forward that has the potential to end confusion and incompatibilities and vastly reduce costs for UK content producers."

The EBU’s Director of Technology and Development, Lieven Vermaele, said the EBU was aiming for a similar level of cooperation for all its members. Vermaele stressed that the EBUCore standard, which has also been adopted by the consortium developing the Framework for Interoperable Media Services (FIMS), is central to facilitating this goal.

“Agreements like this accelerate progress in our industry,” Vermaele said. “The DPP deal will speed the onset of file-based workflows in the UK, creating big savings that can be potentially redirected towards investment, training and program making.”

The BBC, ITV and C4 are committed to begin taking delivery of programs on file on a selective basis this year. After a pilot period, file-based delivery will become the preferred format for the broadcasters by 2014.

Without agreement on metadata, file-based delivery would not deliver the promised cost and efficiency savings. EBUCore was developed as a common underlying standard for file based metadata, deliberately designed with a minimum and flexible list of attributes to describe audio and video for a wide range of broadcasting applications including archives, exchange and production in the context of a service-oriented architecture.