The project is championed by ITV, and the participants come from media data solution provider Fabric, media workflow developer and systems integrator Flomenco, The Entertainment Identifier Registry Association (EIDR), Amazon via IMDb, and The Language Metadata Table community (LMT).
The specific challenge as stated on the project site is:
Studios, Content Creators and Broadcasters lose control of their metadata once it is published. As content is distributed and it works its way through the entertainment data landscape, it becomes augmented and the original quality, messaging and intent becomes compromised.
This is why the industry needs Authenticated Data Specification, which will allow content owners to verify and authenticate their content data and imagery - and publish it to 3rd party sources.
Andrew Holland, VP Data Services at Fabric, put the original idea proposal together, pitched it at the IBC Accelerator Kickstart event in London earlier this year, and helped to build the wider team of contributing authors. In his pitch at the Kickstart event, he identified the problem succinctly, “Gaps can be replaced with slightly dodgy crowdsourced data of unknown provenance,” he said. “In essence, over time it can become a little bit messy, and the data can be compromised.”
Although the metadata associated with a specific piece of media is not something that is immediately obvious to a viewer or even a creator, Holland highlighted how much material is associated with content “A huge degree of effort goes into the creation of entertainment content,” he says. “Not just in the creation of the media asset itself, but in the commissioned artwork and imagery, and the descriptive text, the localized material, value-add content, and an assortment of other accompanying metadata.”
He described what can happen to the associated material once it enters the supply chain. “The same care is not necessarily shown for this package of metadata as is shown to the main media assets,” he said. “As the data passes between systems and legacy platforms, we may see fields or attributes culled, synopses arbitrarily guillotined mid-sentence to fit character restrictions, cast and crew listings reduced and re-ordered, and specific genres or keywords homogenized when mapped to generic lists. Compounding this, data gaps throughout the supply chain are frequently filled using third party data that has been crowd-sourced or scraped, further reducing the quality of the product for the end user. In short, entertainment metadata can get butchered, and what leaves the studio is rarely what reaches the customer.”
The rise of streaming services is leading to greater competition for viewers, and customer-facing metadata is becoming increasingly more important in order to drive content discovery, encourage brand loyalty, and facilitate user-friendly interfaces. All of which have a significant influence on customers perception of quality.
As a result, Holland has seen more care being shown for metadata, but there is still huge room for improvement. “Trust and authenticity have always been key to the delivery of quality content,” he said. “But they often depend on effective systems of data verification. Countering this, bad data and the proliferation of errors lead to poor user experience, and the degradation of product quality as bad data is compounded over time.”
Remedying these problems for the industry as a whole is the goal of this project. “This destruction of value is avoidable, as long as systems of data governance are in place to monitor data, verify quality, and remedy any defect,” said Holland. “We are proposing the creation of such a system, which will give content creators the ability to control, update, and verify the metadata, images, and usage rights that are an extension of their product.”
A major attraction for participation in the Accelerator projects has been the opportunities for collaboration. Holland emphasises the benefits of working with a diverse group of participants, “This is not a project that would succeed if one business were simply to attempt it on their own,” he said. “We need everyone’s different perspectives to make sure that we have included every different metadata field, definition, and use-case. We need everyone’s deep and varied expertise to make sure that everything we do is of the highest quality, as well as being inter-operable and complementary. And we need buy-in from all the participants involved, so that we can turn this project into a reality by kick-starting the adoption process, and getting the ADS established across the industry. This is something that could only really get off the ground as a collaborative effort, so it has been great to have this opportunity to achieve it.”
This view is supported by Thomas Porter, Principal Technical Business Development Manager at IMDb, “The Specification working group empowers content providers to organize key data attributes as early as possible in the content life cycle, authenticate them, and proactively work with us to publish them at the right time. We’ve welcomed the opportunity provided by the project to hear additional first-hand feedback from our data and licensing customers to help us make it simple, efficient, and scalable for content providers to accurately reflect their slates on IMDb.”
Holland described the broad background of the project team, “Our Accelerator team includes content creators, metadata management specialists, and metadata aggregators and distributors - encompassing the entire landscape of media metadata. This wide combination of expertise has provided us with a holistic understanding of the overall process, enabling us to solve the challenges and deliver a solution that can benefit the wider industry.”
The Accelerator Process
IBC’s Accelerator programme is unique in the industry for providing a safe place for a variety of companies, sometimes competitors, to come together and collaborate on solutions that benefit the entire industry.
This is the second Accelerator project in which Holland has been involved. “It still amazes me how we get from a blank page to a detailed blueprint in the space of about six weeks,” he said. “There are valuable lessons here for business in general, about how to solve problems quickly with the right attitudes, approach, and processes.”
He credited the structure and focus provided by IBC as a key factor in the success of the projects. “The programme is great for achieving these outcomes in several ways. Firstly, it offers a reliable and recognised framework under which it is possible to corral and convene major players from across the wider industry, and work together in the spirit of cooperation,” he says. “Secondly, the limited timeframe to get things done, culminating in a demonstration on the floor of IBC works as both a promise and a motivating threat! The 12-week timeline really focuses minds and gets the best out of people. When you have 10-20 super knowledgeable experts all contributing their experience to a project it can take leaps forward very quickly.”
The Showcase at IBC
Each Accelerator programme culminates in a showcase at IBC in September. Holland describes the use cases they have created for their turn on the stage in Amsterdam. “We have created a host of documentation and use cases that will allow the ADS to be adopted by a wide variety of different users, from content creators and distributors, metadata managers, metadata aggregators and distributors to metadata content management platforms, and metadata consumers such as retailers and broadcasters,” he says. “We will be showcasing the process whereby a user can register as a certified ‘publisher’, and go on to create, amend, augment, and authenticate their metadata records, which will then be published and displayed as ‘authenticated’ on 3rd party metadata distribution sites.”
An important aspect of the programme is the value created for the champions and participants. IMDb’s Porter highlighted the benefits for his company’s end users, “Working collaboratively with other thought leading data providers and consumers as part of the IBC Accelerator program helps ensure the data on IMDb and the additional experiences whose entertainment data is powered by IMDb is accurate, timely and relevant,” he said.
Holland pointed out how an industry-wide solution can benefit individual players as well.
“At Fabric we are always listening to our clients to get the best possible understanding of how we can help solve their problems. We’re very interested in generally reducing the friction that slows down the smooth transfer of information between organizations,” he said.
“For a while we have been aware that one of the obstacles that is slowing things down is the lack of a universal metadata delivery standard, meaning that huge amounts of time are wasted configuring deliveries to bespoke formats for each client. We realised that we could potentially improve this situation, whilst simultaneously improving and authenticating metadata at the same time. As a company that stores, manages, and supplies media metadata, anything we can do to improve the quality, delivery, and interoperability of data for us, our clients, and the wider industry, is a great benefit. Everyone wins, and in a nutshell everyone across the entertainment landscape will benefit from this and you can’t get much better than that.”