Automating On-air Promotions


ITV, the UK’s largest commercial broadcaster makes more than 1000 marketing assets to promote more than 35 programmes every month. There are many versions of on-air trailers – coming soon, next week, tomorrow etc. - as well as versions for off-air, including digital, social media, print and outdoor.

What we needed was a way of connecting our channel marketing and creative teams directly with an automated production process for all this material. Vital was a user interface that spoke the language of the marketers not engineers and gave instant reassurance that all the details are correct.

We searched the market, but we could not find a single system that would do what we needed, despite the fact that this is an issue that is relevant to every broadcaster. So, we set about assembling technical partners to create a system which was robust enough for a premium broadcast environment, and flexible enough to handle all the off-air media channels. The solution we created is called ITV Phoenix.

Central to the system is Pixel Power’s GALIUM Factory system. This is proven software designed to automatically version content. You give it the creative content generated by ITV’s post-production systems, plus all the end-board data, and it generates completely automatically all the versions you need, which would otherwise be a tedious, time-consuming process for a video editor.

The Phoenix software solution is a hybrid-cloud system, implemented predominantly in ITV’s ‘common platform’ environment. This is based on an industry-leading dev-ops model, which uses the public cloud to provide resource scalability. High-resolution assets, including the Pixel Power system, remain on premise co-located with Post-Production. The dev-ops software environment allows frequent business-led feature releases, security patches and platform updates without disruption.

We worked with UK-based systems integrator NMR and user interface designers 100 Shapes together with Swedish technology vendors Cantemo, Vidispine and Codemill. This allowed us to create a user experience which is tailored to the expectations of our channel marketing and creative teams. A custom campaign management wizard allows them to enter and modify data simply, reducing processing time from hours to minutes.

As part of this interface, the moment the data is entered the user sees a full preview of the end board of the spot. The marketing team gets instant reassurance that the correct information has been entered. Once the Pixel Power Factory software has generated the trailers, they can be sent to the marketing team’s iPad for review and sign-off.

When signed off, the various broadcast versions are packaged with DPP metadata [a standard common to all the main broadcasters in UK] then sent for playout and distribution.

We worked closely with Pixel Power throughout the planning and commissioning of ITV Phoenix, which is essentially a bespoke UI for Factory, and lots more besides. The Pixel Power team gave us a lot of help and support to make it all happen. The company has met our expectations, and the project has delivered beyond our original requirements – the mobile approval was not in the original scope, for example.

Most important, we have delighted our users. Our legacy processes were frustratingly time-consuming and complex. ITV Phoenix, using Pixel Power Factory, has changed all that for the better.

Nick Haworth, Head of Technology, Studios at ITV, UK - biography

Nick Haworth is Head of Technology, Studios at ITV. He is accountable for the Studios Technology team relationship with ITV News, ITV Sport and ITV Creative. A former television news producer, he made the switch to consultancy, online and production technology more than a decade ago. Nick has overseen the strategy and implementation of marketing campaign management systems, digital production systems and content management systems.