The New SIMS 4.0 Has Arrived!

By Jay Batista, StorerTV COO

SIMS 4.0 has been released with 100+ software enhancements, including these top new features:

" The addition of "Entity Extensions" which permits users to create customized fields for entering contract extension details (title, synopsis, music rights, metadata, insertion points, etc.)  no more cookie-cutter templates! o These extensions can include calculated fields

o One key application is to identify insertion opportunities within media for secondary events

o And this new enhancement adds the ability to track documentation within a specific contract--by using notes for each unique piece of documentation, this feature allows users to track contract evolution stages, for example from proposal to negotiations to approved contract to production releases and media deliveries.

" Adds "Pitch Standard" as an Available Selection & Column in Title field for Nonlinear Package Exports in different formats (i.e. MS Excel, XML, etc.)

o Example: Select unique metadata templates to send to Cable MSOs and a different set of metadata to send to an IP streaming service

o The new design supports an unlimited number of package standards

" Addition of Status and Tracking Options for Physical Media, including o Multilingual capability added to Media Properties, and

o Status updates show movement of files through the preparation process (QC, Approval, etc.) and are flagged when files are air ready

" Add ability to put a label on a single day of the schedule to create unique identifiers to mark or highlight holidays, events or specials (i.e. Super Bowl, Labor Day, etc.)

" SIMS "Skin" Themes: Now users can customize the look and feel of SIMS with Skin templates and adjust the position of the navigation table

" Updated Installation Procedure--a New Install Wizard allows users to individually customize SIMS (no longer installs from a master copy)

o Ideal for enterprise environment

o Provides better security

o Components can be controlled by Administrator

" SIMS Financial tools now interface to Great Plains Financials

o SIMS financial data summarized in reports is automatically imported to Great Plains o The corporate general ledger can now manager contract payments with data from SIMS, and update SIMS when payments are made

" New SIMS Integrations

o Music Master and Music Selector music programming systems

§ All music secondary events information is shared

o Broadway Systems Traffic and Billing software

§ Supports Alternate Schedules

Rights In / Rights Out: Managing Content Rights Across Multiple Platforms

The audio in this video clip was taken from an interview given by the Digital Production Buzz - May, 2012

Ross Bentley, the CEO of UK-based Rights Tracker, and Karyn Bliss, the Director of Product Development at StorerTV, discuss the importance of a Rights in / Rights out model of managing and monetizing media content.

Learn more at storertv.com.

What We Learned About the Media Industry During the 2012 NAB Show

Jim AlbrightWith the 2012 NAB Show attendance rising back to pre-recession levels, we had the opportunity to speak with many attendees about their views of the show and the health of the industry.

Role Reversals

We knew that media companies are leaning heavily on their Finance departments. What we didn't realize was that Finance departments (as ROI analysts) are now managing the purchases for new software and equipment. Technical departments and Chief Engineers are less and less involved the final decisions on new products and services.

Business Intelligence

Forecasting and planning have always been essential to business health, and we learned that more and more media companies are embracing the idea (and investing in) business intelligence tools. Staying competitive requires decision-makers to quickly view the state of the company, analyze risks then make informed decisions. If you can implement a company-wide system that tracks trends, monitors ROI and sends projections automatically, you will be able to move the business faster with the peace of mind that you can better monitor and forecast with accuracy.

Up Economy?

Many people we spoke with at the show commented that there were more exhibitors this year than in the last 4 years. When doing the numbers, there were 44 more exhibitors (mostly exhibiting in smaller sized booths) in 2012 than in 2011. Despite the recession, exhibitor attendance was higher between 2008 and 2010, and then dipped significantly in 2011 before recovering again in 2012.

Many also said that they felt show attendance was down from last year. The numbers given by the NAB indicate that show registrations have been modestly increasing since the worst of the recession:

YearExhibitor Attendance Show Attendees 
20121,575+2.8%92,112+0.2%
20111,531-11.0%91,932+4.2%
20101,700+1.8%88,044+4.8%
20091,670+4.4%83,842-25.6%
Recession Hits
20081,6000.0%105,259-5.5%

Workflow Evolution

For the last few years, the industry buzz has been around the concept of workflow to help media companies connect and automate back-office processes. We have noticed that many vendors selling workflow solutions have focused only on connecting their own hardware and/or software products  which only addresses the solution to a single problem.

The NAB Show still offered a few workflow "best practices" seminars that focused on one type of workflow (i.e. multi-camera live video and analysis workflow), but many of the attendees we spoke with said that they specifically were looking for an end-to-end workflow solution, and not a manage within each "silo" workflow approach. Thankfully, a few exhibitors this year spoke about broader reaching workflow solutions, including StorerTV!

Click for 5 Must See Workflow Examples for Media Companies >>

The problem we had discovered about workflow is that it can mean something different to each person. Many don't realize the potential of what a proper workflow engine can do. People are faced with a particular problem, and seek the solution for that problem. But an end-to-end workflow goes beyond a single solution  it is a business system  a means to connect, automate and manage each and every process within an organization. This idea is slowly being adopted by the industry, and we fully expect this idea to flourish in the next 2 years, as more media companies become aware of more workflow possibilities.

Software Stays King

Rights Tracker demonstrates their web-based software at the 2012 NAB ShowThough many NAB Show exhibitors offer hardware systems, cameras, lighting, rigging, etc., we found that the dominant product being shown was software systems. As media companies evolve, they rely on their key hardware components to produce and store content, while their key software is used to edit, archive, distribute, manage, play, report and bill the acquired or produced content.

Many new software systems being promoted at the show were designed to help broadcasters and producers "monetize content". One such software was from our UK-based partner, Rights Tracker. As first time exhibitors, they were kept pretty busy showing their web-based rights management software.

Overall...

No one can deny that the industry is evolving. Today, broadcasters must do more with less  they need fast information about how their content is handled, and what the costs are. They need smarter systems that automate processes and alert them when problems arise. The industry is changing with the needs of on-demand viewing which opens up new opportunity to broadcast over multiple platforms. How will the industry keep up with the insatiable demand for content while increasing revenue? These are problems that have solutions, and it is up to the industry as a whole to embrace them and take the television experience to the next level.

Engineers Doing More with Workflows... For Less

Jim AlbrightWhen Engineers are faced with tight budgets, and hiring extra help is not an option, they are required to creatively "do more with less." The competitive landscape and an anemic economy are forcing media companies to change the way they do business by creating improved processes, reducing labor and centralizing business operations wherever possible.

One effective way to get more accomplished with less staff is by linking together existing systems so they can share data or trigger disparate operations without manual intervention. More and more companies are adopting workflow engines that automate business processes and provide the hands-on working engineers with a complete view of their tasks and operations. A workflow engine can be easily installed and configured to reduce human errors, and save thousands of dollars in operating expenses.

The CentriX workflow engine by StorerTV completely integrates back office systems like traffic and billing, program and promotion management tools with operations systems including MAM, satellite, transcoding, traffic and automation, as well as traditional financial tools like SAP, Oracle, SalesForce, SharePoint and Outlook. Alerts can be automatically sent to appropriate recipients via email or text message, and escalation procedures will ensure that each process issue is handled quickly and effectively, on time and on budget!

CentriX is not a product, it is a tool used by media companies to incrementally implement cost effective work operations. It can be used for small, simple operations or to cost-effectively manage the entire media content lifecycle in your Factory. A CentriX business workflow solution truly connects front office operations with the back office and can be implemented in months, not years, at a fraction of the cost of other "workflow systems" on the market.

TV Globo: Project Reflections

 Kellie McKeownWith TV Globo completing the final transition from their 20-year-old in-house media scheduling system to SIMS, their first vendor-provided software system, I have had occasion to reflect. Over my career, I have managed projects for NASA, Sony, Avid, TiVo and others. Projects tend to follow a bell curve. In the beginning, there is a rush of excitement as the new project starts. Then it gets harder and harder until it is quite challenging in the middle. Once over the hump, it gets easier over time until the final emotional rush at the end of the project when the objectives are finally achieved. The emotional high at the end is what Project Managers live for. Over the past year and a half since I started with StorerTV in August 2010, the project with TV Globo has followed this bell curve and we have now reached the crescendo at the end in which the entire team gets to celebrate our accomplishments.

The SIMS project for TV Globo has been productive and gratifying. We have solidified a very strong team at StorerTV of developers, QA and Customer Support. We have built robust relationships with TV Globo and with TV Globo's system integrator, PCA, as well as other vendors to TV Globo. And most of all, we delivered the functionality that TV Globo needs to effectively run their operations for many years to come.

Some milestones from the TV Globo project that stick in my memory are:

  • Providing our first release to TV Globo in August 2010, less than a month after software development began.
  • Completing the first phase of our development effort just before Christmas 2010.
  • Two representatives from TV Globo spending a month with us in Mequon, Wisconsin in Jan/Feb 2011 to thoroughly test SIMS in preparation for Go Live. During this time, we had a blizzard which was a significant event for two people from Brazil who had never seen snow!
  • Going live with SIMS at TV Globo in April 2011, initiating parallel operations with SIMS and the legacy system.
  • Cutover of operations for the TV Globo International channels from the legacy system to SIMS in July 2011.
  • Release of extensive additional functionality and features over the second half of 2011.
  • And of course, cutover of all TV Globo operations to SIMS, retiring the legacy system, in February 2012.

One of the most fulfilling moments on the project was meeting with users in Rio in November 2011 and seeing the big smiles on their faces. It was very rewarding to have them ask me to thank the developers for improving their quality of life by providing SIMS. While it is TV Globo management that works with StorerTV to ensure that the project is successful, it is the users who use SIMS on a daily basis who are the most benefited by the success of the project. It is very gratifying to have made such a difference in the lives of the users.

Kellie and her husband Jim at the start of the TranspantaneiraAfter a week at TV Globo in Rio in November, I took advantage of being in such an environmentally rich country to visit the Pantanal which is a very large pristine wetland in the middle of South America, 85% of which is in Brazil. My husband and I were there for a week and stayed at two lodges along the Transpantaneira where we saw Jaguars, Ocelots, Giant River Otters, Howler Monkeys, a Tapir, Tarantulas, tons of Capybara and Caiman, and many birds including Toucans, Macaws, Rhea, Great Horned Owls, parakeets, hawks, kingfishers, cormorants and giant Jabiru Storks which grow to 5 ½ feet tall. It was an incredible experience.

Now I am looking forward to our next project with TV Globo. We are in the startup phase and excitement of a new project with the rise and fall of the bell curve ahead of us.

Monitoring the Financial Health of Media Companies

Jim AlbrightFinance departments who rely on enterprise level data management systems to quickly analyze, report and react to current conditions, may not be getting a complete view of the financial health of their organization. Many times these business systems only monitor their general ledger and accounting tools, but leave out key information about what is happening in other parts of their back office. For Finance departments to see a true picture of revenue and costs analysis, they would need to tap into the entire network of databases across their media factories, harvest relevant data and organize that data into workable figures, reports and projections.

As media companies handle more and more content, it is paramount to have the ability to monitor their value in many different incarnations. Amortization reports and managing the right to use certain content formats play a key role in determining operational costs and ROI. By implementing a workflow engine to connect back office systems with front office applications, the Finance department can create custom reports and dashboards that provide a quick overview of organizational assets and business processes. A world class workflow engine follows business rules and escalation procedures that automate repetitive and tedious tasks, like weekly analyses, cascading expense report approvals based on amounts and limits, or a live inventory status and value report.

Implementing an end-to-end business workflow does not have to cost millions of dollars or take years to complete. At StorerTV, our workflow experts work with media companies to define more efficient processes and identify business rules and escalation procedures. We integrate existing hardware and software systems to create a "media factory" and then automate the entire workflow with the CentriX workflow engine. CentriX securely allows the Finance department, management and executives to monitor each business process, create reports and effectively analyze the financial health of their business.

Real World Workflow Applications

Jay BatistaWhen StorerTV began integrating our world class CentriX workflow engine into our Media clients' operations, we quickly found that there is a real need for broad workflow applications across the breadth of operations. We expected that operations would need to automate their program versioning and distribution systems or address the interconnection needs of their master control play-out operation. As we spend more time assisting clients with workflow applications, we are finding true return on investment is unique in every situation, and we have been pleasantly surprised by the innovative requests for workflow automation. Here are just a few of the ideas requested by our customers:

" " "

  • Programming Contract approval
    • The workflow requirement is to initiate and track the inter-office programming contract approval process with management notification of the completion or status of each approval step. It uses automatic or time based escalation procedures to be triggered if a process becomes delayed. The workflow integrates various back office software systems to reduce duplicative data entry chores.

  • Long Form Content Preparation
    • Create a management dashboard to track, route, and report on the interdepartmental preparation steps for the long-form content as it is readied for broadcast. This workflow is designed to prioritize and schedule content processing by "first to air" date.

  • Log Preparation
    • In a large, multi-location operation, track interdepartmental steps to complete and deliver the log to master control operations and communicate delays that may impact other departments. This workflow includes dashboards and escalation procedures.

  • Content Preparation
    • Automate and integrate a multi-thread workflow to track and report the content receipt and preparation processes including ingesting of media, version transcoding where required, quality control, delivery to Asset Management storage, near-line and archival data, and the delivery to the master control operations center in a remote location. Additionally, this workflow presents customized steps to users based on both content-type and "first air date".

  • Deal Memo
    • Create and route program contract "deal memos" through a defined internal approval process. Provide a management overview of the process, and any delays, and automatically update software systems when the approval process is completed.

  • Intra-Company Communications Enhancements
    • Between a network and its operational playback center, track content receipt and preparation for air, report on the daily log status including media status, and supply a unified, jointly accessible dashboard displaying log and content ready-to-air status. This workflow employs innovative communication objects to provide management status updates without compromising either company's network security systems.

" " "

Each of these ideas provides a unique level of savings, either in actual labor costs or avoidance of costs. Most of the workflows are designed to provide management with a new view into their procedures, and escalation triggers to ensure smooth and timely operations. As you consider enhanced workflows to streamline your organization and reporting, our media experts can offer ideas, applications, and tried solutions for your consideration.

Approaches to Media Workflow Integration

Jay BatistaToday, the buzz in the Industry is all about workflow and how solidly designed workflow properly implemented provides measurable efficiencies and return on investment. As a media executive seeking these efficiencies, the marketplace is a bit confused as almost every vendor will pitch their "workflows" as a solution. The reality is that there are really two basic types of these applications:


  1. An interconnection within an operational element of your broadcast or media chain, such as a transcoder farm or a satellite ingest service for master control room automation.
  2. A much broader application of software engines to enhance or automate the interfaces between major systems, such as your back office software, the play-out and distribution chain, or the production tools.

Deploying a broad workflow system to integrate your systems can automate repetitive operations, employ business rules to enhance human interfaces, provide management dashboards and solidify your processes and procedures for continuing training and constant improvement, all of which lead to measurable ROI.

Weighing the Value of End-to-end Workflow Integration

So, as a manager, how can you best gain these efficiencies? Some would argue that you need to define and build a complete, end-to-end solution, and some of our industry leaders have invested in the infrastructure and have deployed all-inclusive systems. But for the majority of operators, this expensive and lengthy process is too difficult and costly to support, and nearly impossible to "future-proof" as equipment, software and systems change and upgrade on an annual basis.

A wiser and more cost effective approach is to target specific areas of potential efficiencies and employ a workflow engine to address incremental deployments. This integration will take more time and involves multiple vendors during the integration process; however it will leave your organization in control of the specific areas

It is much easier to defend an incremental deployment, where regular measurements can show real savings in time, labor, training or an increase in capacity

of deployment, as well as trained in the methodologies and tools to address the regular and inevitable workflow modifications that occur naturally as vendors in the workflow chain upgrade and update their systems and software.

This incremental approach allows your organization to leverage existing equipment and implement a unique workflow that is best for your operations, a workflow that embraces and enhances the specific vision that makes your company successful.

Any manager will be asked to defend capital expenses and it is hard to justify purchasing a monolithic deployment where every department and individual is touched by a part of the new system--it is much easier to defend an incremental deployment, where regular measurements can show real savings in time, labor, training or an increase in capacity. In the incremental approach, you can define small targeted projects with recognizable returns, keep the costs under strict control, minimize the organizational upheaval, and lower your overall risk. Yes, it will take longer to manage and completely integrate a complex workflow system, and sometime the requirements of the system evolve during the deployment, especially if the process is planned over multiple years.

Managing a workflow implementation does not have to be a major undertaking with outside consultants, lots of management oversight (and overtime!) and high cost. Any company can target specific system improvements and model an end goal. The key to success is to talk to the users and "map" how media assets, people, physical resources and time interact in your system and define the business rules for the workflow engine, especially what should happen when a process "fails" or is "late." Your number one asset is your human capital—great workflows save time, money and free up your staff for more important tasks.

Television Group Scheduling Made Easy

Jay Batista

Flexible by design, CorporateXpress (CX) is deployed differently by the different television groups that use our SIMS software, depending on management philosophy or strategic directions. Some of our clients use CX to "push down" information from corporate to each of their station operations, while other "roll up" information from the station level, and still others employ a combination of these operations.

The best way to illustrate the potential of the software is to discuss its application in a case study format:

A Case Study

One large television group has integrated CX into their financial and programming workflows to increase labor efficiencies and reduce duplication at both levels of their organization, corporate and the station level. Their integration has provided real, measurable return on investment, so it is helpful to outline each of their applications:

  1. They use CX to enter any contracts that have associated cash – Cash contracts and Cash Barter Contracts. This is done by 2 staff personnel, one on the east coast and one on the west. "Barter only" contracts are entered by each station/market, and are not entered by corporate.
  2. Payments are set to be made using the corporate database. The group minimizes labor in the finance department by cutting one check to a Distributor that covers all contracts across all stations and markets.
  3. CX is configured so that even if the payment schedules are managed in the corporate database, the payment schedules are "cast down" to the branch station databases as read-only entries. When payments are made at corporate, the payments are "cast down"to the stations as read only entries as well. That way, local business managers can pull reports on what has been paid, what hasn't been paid, future cash flow reports, etc. At the corporate level, these same reports are pulled using the corporate database "roll up" reporting.
  4. To further their labor savings at the station level, a single individual employs the CX software to provide network scheduling: A network affiliate schedule is entered in the corporate database and then "cast down" to the 5 owned and affiliated stations they have in a hub operation. This saves each of the stations time and labor.
  5. At the corporate office, a number of daily, weekly and monthly reports are gathered from the corporate database. Some of these reports have been customized to provide a unique review of the data, and others are scheduled for automatic generation and publication.

By using SIMS, a media contract rights and program management system, the corporate level can benefit from the timely analysis and verification of station program asset valuation/amortization for pre-sale preparations. These reports can be very effective in establishing value during the acquisition process and protect the corporate investments.

The Big Picture

By employing tools like SIMS and CorporateXpress, corporate executives will benefit from:

  • Centralized Contract entry and management
  • Centralized Payment Management and Tracking
    • Post one check to a distributor
    • Pay for multiple programs and multiple stations
    • Track payment history including check level detail
  • Centralized Network Scheduling to populate station schedules
  • Roll up Contract and Financial Reporting across all stations

2011 IBC Show: A New Perspective

Karyn BlissThis was my first year attending IBC, and as a long-time NAB veteran I was not real sure what to expect. I found that in many ways IBC is like a kinder, gentler NAB because of its relaxed pace over a 5 day period. The halls however were smaller and arranged in a maze-like pattern, which caused a bit of confusion to a newcomer like myself.

Regardless, the major themes I noticed this year were 3D, Push-VOD and TV Everywhere.

There were several vendors prominently displaying their 3D offerings, but most attendees commented that viewers are not ready to make the switch from HD to 3D. Many people have recently purchased one or more HD televisions and are not willing to purchase a new television with new technology so soon. There is also concern about the limited amount of 3D content and of course those silly glasses. Glasses-free 3D televisions are on the horizon, but the popular thought I heard time and again was the market is simply not ready to adopt 3D yet. To put it in perspective, the first U.S. public HD broadcast was in 1996 and the New York Times reported that as of November 2010, only 56% of U.S. households had at least one HD Television.

Karyn Bliss at the 2011 IBC Show Push-VOD was a new concept to me, and the business model is based on the idea that the large majority of the world's population does not have access to broadband. The Push-VOD model has content suppliers sending a pre-determined amount of content to a set-top box from where viewers can access the content without having to stream in real-time. This seems like a good idea for newly released movies, but not for someone with more eclectic tastes in television. I saw multiple vendors presenting their implementation of TV Everywhere. Offering the ability to view content on almost any device offers content sellers the chance to gain more impressions and hopefully better monetization of content. I will keep watching out for the latest TV Everywhere trends as it should get pretty interesting in the coming months.

The IBC Show is a great venue to not only meet European prospects, clients and vendors, but get a different perspective on our business.

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