IBC Innovation Awards finalist ITV created Phoenix, a purpose-built asset management system with complex workflows and integrations to meet its production needs.

UK broadcaster ITV has been shortlisted for its Project Phoenix. The broadcaster needed to develop a system which managed the production of promos and trailers from commissioning to transmission.

The result creates more than 1,000 marketing assets every month, with almost all versioning carried out automatically. Technology partners working alongside ITV were NMR, 100 Shapes, Cantemo, Codemill, Pixel Power and Vidispine.

ITV Head of Technology Nick Haworth explains:

What was the initial challenge faced by the end user: technical, creative or commercial?

ITV is great at creating marketing campaigns and we produce a lot of them. In fact we make over a thousand assets a month right across our family of channels. But producing all these assets was a long, manual and repetitive process involving multiple systems.

In short, it was a real pain.

We needed a solution to break this cycle. We started to search for a system our users would love and that work across all our channels, both on-air and off-air, but we came up short. No system seemed to exist that met all of our needs. Until one day our technology and creative teams had a genius idea. Let’s build one for ourselves. So we did.

Phoenix image

ITV’s Project Phoenix

How did you collaborate to find a solution? Talk us through the process and timeline

We brought together some of the most innovative media tech companies - NMR, Cantemo, Vidispine, Codemill, Pixel Power and 100 Shapes - to design a revolutionary campaign management system.The kind that every big broadcaster needs, but no-one had invented yet.

The system needed to work for everyone and become a single source of truth, so getting the marketing teams, the creatives and media planners involved at the prototype stage meant they were able to heavily influence the design of the user interface and user journeys and really make it their own.

And that involvement continued throughout with ITV Creative’s Controller of Operations and Production, Anna Waldeck-Evans, embedded with the ITV Phoenix project team from the start.

What challenges did you face when collaborating with the technical partners in order to develop a solution?

Our development partners build the user friendly Phoenix application creating bespoke user interfaces for campaign planning and autoversioning with complex workflows and integrations all on top of tried and tested media asset management software.

Then ITV’s team of DevOps engineers worked their magic creating an automatically deployed cloud hybrid solution with the hi-res assets in ITV owned and managed storage.

To achieve this the ITV Technology team held daily meetings with the suppliers based on three sites in London, one in Cambridge and one in northern Sweden. The meetings used Google Hangouts for video conference calling and in between time, messaging platform Slack for speedy inter-supplier conversations.

It proved that a complex project could be delivered, despite teams working across multiple buildings and countries.

What makes your project unique from your competitors?

The project meant ITV could automate many of its marketing operations like versioning, archiving, asset deliver and QC - and create a smart new way of managing on-air and off-air assets in one system.

ITV’s implementation is a unique hybrid cloud based media asset management system, supporting media and workflows on-premise, in the data centre and on the public cloud. It is industry leading, innovative, scalable and highly available, where legacy traditional asset management systems are based on on-premise hardware, normally single site, that constantly needs hardware to be refreshed, and doesn’t scale.

As a result of the project, what has the outcome been for the end user? What is the benefit for the viewer/consumer?

For the teams who work in ITV Group Marketing, many of the legacy processes were frustratingly time consuming and complex.

There were multiple systems that simply hadn’t kept up with the growth in on-air and off-air channels - and the corresponding growth in the number of promo versions produced for those channels. Amongst the teams there was very little visibility of our campaigns and the assets that were being made for them, essentially no one single system with everything in one place. It meant precious creative time was spent manipulating data, building versions manually on an edit timeline and manually retrieving archive content.

Checking the accuracy of end boards wasn’t possible until after a promo had been produced - which meant if they were wrong - they would have to be made again.

ITV Phoenix has changed all that for the better. It has become the hub of all of our marketing campaigns and assets, the single source of truth.

We’ve been able to free up the creative teams to do the creative things. It has reduced effort and turned tech heavy, office based processes into a ‘one click’, ‘self-serve from anywhere’ experience. It’s taken the pain away and made sign off and delivery of promos a breeze.

What lessons have you learned as a result of this project? Have they resulted in any changes to the way you approach future projects?

Many lessons learnt. Two stand out.

Firstly, the importance of getting the user interface right. We did that by building clickable prototypes so the users could provide feedback before we started the expensive job of writing the code. The approach has been picked up by other projects in ITV and the ITV Phoenix product manager Paul Sheppard worked with our user interface designers to create an internal ITV style guide for business systems.

Secondly, the importance picking suppliers with proven capability to manage the complexity required to develop innovative products; as well as having a highly collaborative and flexible approach.

Why is it important to participate in the IBC Innovation Awards?

Nick haworth

Nick Haworth

The IBC Innovation Awards is a great opportunity to recognise the many suppliers, teams and individuals who have collaborated over the last three years to develop ITV Phoenix.

Individuals like ITV solution architect Alistair Gear, project manager Paul Appleton and product manager Paul Sheppard, who have been instrumental in its success.

Being shortlisted for the award helps demonstrate that ITV is a great place to work for technologists who are excited about developing cutting edge technology products and systems.

IBC2017 Innovation Awards ceremony takes place Sunday 17 September