PixelPower

Article: Smarter Branding

Smarter branding by James Gilbert, Pixel Power

The past decade of multi-channel digital broadcasting has created a paradox. The addition of OTT, VoD and other online services only serves to add to it.

On the one hand, the more channels there are, the more you need to market yours if it is to win and retain a healthy audience.

On the other hand, the more channels there are, the more the total revenues have to be sliced, and thus all budgets (including marketing) for individual channels must be reduced.

In simple terms, each channel needs to create more branding, promotions and trailers which is an expensive and challenging manual process. I am sure we all have secret favourite channels, in the higher numbers of the EPG, which we would watch more often if only they did not show exactly the same set of trailers and channel promos in every single break.

The solution is obvious: reduce the cost of each promo, so you can create more variety. While you are doing this, make multiple versions of each promo, so you can trail a programme as coming soon, next week, on Friday, tomorrow, tonight, and coming next. And ensure that you show the right version at the right time.

Designing an engaging and attractive trailer calls for the skills and experience of a good editor. Having found the good editor, you want to keep them by letting them focus on their talent, the creative side of their job, where they can really contribute. Allowing them half a day to make something really great then asking them to spend the rest of the week versioning it is not the way to motivate nor is it the way to maximize the use of their creative talent.

Pixel Power solved this issue several years ago. It was the result of a project carried out for BBC World and which is still being used in multiple guises.

This international service is played out from the UK and retransmitted by broadcast services around the world. The BBC is not funded through advertising, but some of the re-broadcasts are, so there was a requirement to leave commercial breaks at programme junctions. For those broadcasters who did not want to sell advertising on BBC World, the delivery stream had to fill the programme junctions with the usual branding material – promos, trailers and other relevant interstitials.

The BBC asked Pixel Power to investigate if there was a way to automate the creation of content for these programme junctions. We developed a solution that allows channel managers to set up a series of rules and design the core templates, then leave the intelligence in the automation to build menus, run-downs, secondary events and even video promos in context.

The system has access to the current and future schedule, so it knows how long it needs to make the interstitials, and what programmes surround the junction. It makes the trails that it creates relevant to the specific moment and, indeed, ensures it avoids embarrassing conjunctions: it ensures that a programme on the environment is not followed by a trailer for a repeat of Top Gear, for example.

It also talks to external sources, for instance to get weather forecasts, stock market prices and news headlines. It makes each programme junction unique, engaging and relevant, and once the rules are set up and the basic designs defined, it is entirely automatic.

Today it forms the basis of two products. PromoteTM is the live branding and promotion platform, and FactoryTM provides a means of creating in advance multiple versions of trailers and promotions within a file-based environment.

Factory tackles the issue of keeping editors enthused. Their creative skills are still vital to build campaigns and templates, but the boring repetitive manual work of building multiple versions is now, thankfully, fully automated.

MBC in the Middle East is a big user of Factory. They estimate the saving is 40 hours a month in editing suite time per channel, while achieving a 50% reduction in the delivery time for promos. Simply give them templates and work orders and these systems will create new content with little or no manual intervention.

One of the key applications for versioning is to promote across streaming and catch-up as well as traditional broadcast outputs. Factory can also be used to prepare the content for VoD. Again by following rules and templates, it can stitch the content together, change the branding to the online identity, and deliver the revised assets to the content delivery network ready to go.

Products like Promote and Factory evolved out of the software-defined, computer-to-computer era. They depend upon pulling content and information from servers and systems, using pre-defined rules and advanced intelligence to create precisely the right content for the moment and the context. It is the smart solution to positive, engaging and dynamic branding delivered efficiently across all your channels. No more channel hopping due to boring interstitials!

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