Metadata - the key to OTT success

At a time when traditional pay-TV continues to lose subscribers – operators AT&T, DirecTV, Comcast and Charter lost a combined 619,000 video customers in Q3 – content creators are sprinting to meet the demand for new content the growth of OTT services is generating.

Netflix plans to spend up to $8 billion on content in 2018, much of it original, including more than 80 movies, as it looks to create a library that is unique to it. Amazon is spending $4.5 billion, including $1 billion on original content; Hulu’s $2.5 billion spend will include seven originals; Apple has pledged $1 billion for at least 10 original and social site Facebook also plans a $1 billion spend for original content.

Combined, that $17 billion is more than 8X the spend of traditional content powerhouse HBO.

As Peter Csathy, chairman of CreaTV Media, a U.S.-based advisory company, told ScreenDaily: “The weapon of choice in this all-out war for viewers is premium original content.”

A content tsunami is coming

The content tsunami is floating a surge of television and movie production work in cities like Vancouver, Atlanta, New York and, of course, Los Angeles, where production companies are finding it tough to get into sound stages.

"Soundstages have historically run at a utilization rate of about 70%. Today, many are running at close to 100%," Carl Muhlstein, international director at the commercial real estate firm JLL, told the Los Angeles Times. "For the first time in a long time, tenants like Netflix are signing long-term, 10-year leases. They usually did it on a production-by-production basis."

The market demand also is pushing content creators to try and accelerate production times, looking for ways to get ideas turned into finished products more quickly. Complicating matters is the reality that where there used to only be a handful of outlets, significant demand now comes from dozens of Internet television channels – many of them with global reach, like Netflix.

So, content not only needs to be fast-tracked, but produced with an eye toward maximizing ROI for global distribution, with dubbing or subtitling, and other localization. In EMEA alone, that business is expected to grow to $2.5 billion in 2020 from $2 billion today, the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) Europe reports.

Metadata plays a crucial role

Crucial to maximizing returns on a project is metadata – the information about the information in a video. Metadata is the fuel that feeds machine learning and artificial intelligence, which can help shorten production times by automatically creating transcripts to turn into sub-titles. It can be used in many applications to help develop and automate workflows used in production and distribution.

“Data is power,” said Marcelo Lebre, VP of engineering at translation service Unbabel.

Making sure that accurate metadata is collected and maintained throughout the production process can also be used to assist in discovery and recommendation of content on a video service, making the service more sticky to users and, thus, benefiting both the content creator who provided the asset and the content distributor.

That’s something more content creators, during the editing process, are starting to pay more attention to. In addition to focusing on the video track, the audio track and the time code track, it’s the metadata “track” that offers unique opportunities.

“Eventually everybody is going to have direct-to-consumer (video services) in the marketplace,” said Brian Sullivan, Chief Operating Officer of 21st Century Fox’s Digital Consumer Group during a panel at IBC. Acquiring data on customers, their habits and their likes and dislikes may mean the difference between knowing what “people are consuming and what they want to consume.”

For the moment, tech companies such as Ooyala -with it’s Flex platform, are ahead of the broadcast industry in understanding metadata and how to use it to build video businesses, but there are opportunities for traditional players in the space to take advantage of technology as well… they’ll have to in order to thrive.

Demand continues to surge

The demand for content is at an all-time high, driven in large part by online video services. The number of scripted series in the U.S. market has increased from 210 in 2010 to an expected 455 in 2017. The number of scripted series on online services alone has more than doubled in the past year, from 46 to 93.

“We are the new faces of the American content industry,” wrote Google, Amazon, Netflix and several other Internet firms in a letter to the Trump Administration.

Perhaps, but old-guard content companies that learn how to leverage metadata to help cut the time it takes to bring fresh content to market – to automate workflows, increasing ROI in the process – and to use metadata to help make content more discoverable will remain a major force.



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