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Modernizing the Entertainment Industry Supply Chain in the Age of Streaming

The old business model: Make it, show it, stick it on a shelf.

Twenty years ago, monetizing content meant releasing it to a sizable audience at the multiplex or on VHS, DVD, pay-per-view or cable television. Under that industry release model, it made sense to ignore most of the catalog and to focus on new releases and a few big winners.

In today’s long-tail, at-home streaming world, things are very different. There are now huge sums of money to be made through the aggregation and effective distribution of highly-targeted content that reaches narrow-interest audiences.

The content itself is not the issue. Studios have decades’ worth of film and video in their archives; however, nearly 98 percent of that content is not accessible and available for distribution.

The problem is that an entangling morass of content and rights-management issues make it nearly impossible to select, release and monetize all this legacy content cost-effectively to meet pent-up demand.

Over the past six years, I’ve spent countless hours talking with studio executives and others in the industry to understand the challenges they face. They take my call because I’ve built two companies that use advanced analytics to mine complex media supply-chain data stores to pull out critical content and business information.

The media industry has two primary challenges in this area. The first is that the industry is way behind the rest of the business world in terms of managing its supply chain. Issues that were addressed decades ago by other manufacturers simply didn’t matter to companies where the business model was make it, show it, stick it on a shelf.

The other problem is the inability of media companies to have a single, trusted view of all their assets and related information. Media companies need solid, clean data about what they have, where it is and how they can use it before they can even think about monetizing content in a new market or platform.

Because of these issues, only two percent of legacy archive content ever sees the light of day.

That other 98 percent — locked away in climate-controlled warehouses — represents a huge opportunity in a world where consumers now demand that content be delivered when, where and how they want it, on any device they choose.

The first critical step for content owners and creators looking to solve this problem is to create a global content catalog. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, because the entertainment industry’s supply chain is notorious for relying on multiple computer systems that don’t talk to one another. The same episode of a syndicated TV show, for example, can be called three different things in the production, editing and library systems.

In theory, these companies could replace this crazy quilt of databases with a single repository for all content. But those types of customized, long-term projects have proven to be highly complicated and very expensive, all the while requiring continuous update and expense.

A better alternative is to be nondisruptive to existing systems. An automated, intelligent Master Data Management type of project can glean the needed data with machine-like efficiency. Modern heuristics that map “data behaviors” can then organize, de-duplicate and cleanse the data into a meaningful whole. The goal is to consolidate existing “in-flight” data into a trusted, central source for assets and related information that “floats above” existing systems.

Such a system helps studios, networks and publishers answer the key questions every media executive is asking. Their ability to answer these key questions and address these content catalog issues is critical to unlocking the value of their libraries:

  • Inventory management: What do I own? Where is it? What can I do with it?
  • Revenue opportunities: What content seems to be on trend? Where are the geographic gaps?
  • Ownership exposure: How can I mitigate the risk of distributing without the proper rights?
  • Distribution: How can I maximize my distribution revenue and markets?
  • Storage hierarchy: What should we pull forward from offline, tape, nearline, etc.?

The resulting presentation of the media supply chain allows studios to analyze revenue from specific assets or groups of assets, make regional comparisons of performance, direct re-licensing activities, optimize storage and distribution strategies and conduct much more efficient “media commerce” with external entities, providing timely information about performance, sales levels and more.

Predictive analytics can identify content that is likely to be profitable based on what else is moving through the system.

George O’Conor is the founder, chairman and CEO of Chime Media LLC, which develops and implements industry-specific data mining and advanced analytics solutions for businesses. Reach him @GeorgeOConor.

This article originally appeared on

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