As onboarding continues to be one of the biggest issues faced by those in the VOD supply chain, Rowan de Powerai, DPP CTO, highlights the organisation’s latest guidance on best practices for content supplier onboarding and why it’s recommended reading for both senders and receivers of VOD content.
There was a time when a programme was made for a single broadcaster, shown once and perhaps repeated a couple of times. What a quaint world that now seems.
Programmes are now made from the outset with multi-platform distribution in mind. Every programme will be distributed on VOD platforms - often many of them, but at least the broadcaster’s own. And a growing number of shows will be sold around the world, with tens or hundreds of syndication and licensing agreements.
That means that a typical content owner or broadcaster delivers their programme to linear playout providers, their own streaming platform, pay-TV operators, SVOD platforms, TVOD platforms and more. Each of those platforms in turn might be receiving content from hundreds or even thousands of content providers.
And with the fast-moving dynamics of the modern content market, new outlets and new content suppliers are cropping up every day.
So it’s shocking that, when the DPP gathered a range of content owners and streaming platforms in December 2019, 75% of them reported problems with onboarding. It was the top challenge expressed in the VOD supply chain.
Onboarding is the process by which a sender (such as a content owner) and a receiver (such as a VOD platform) set up their workflows so that they can successfully exchange content and associated assets such as metadata, imagery, subtitles and so on.
Consider that for a moment: more problematic than any technology issue, than any media or data format, was the seemingly simple process of two organisations understanding each other, configuring workflows, and beginning to exchange content.
“More problematic than any technology issue, than any media or data format, was the seemingly simple process of two organisations understanding each other”
A representative from Viacom CBS put it simply: “It’s the most laborious, time consuming process involved in delivery to VOD.” An attendee from UKTV told us that, “setting up a linear channel is much easier than onboarding a VOD partner”.
As an industry, we’re very good at solving complex technical problems. But often, operational issues such as these get much less attention. And so, in 2020, the DPP set out to rectify that.
Shaking up the process
Taking the insights from our research, Supplying the VOD Revolution as a basis, we outlined the core steps involved in onboarding and the best practices for each. This outline was refined and improved with a huge range of content producers and platforms from around the world. They included A+E, Amazon, BBC, Deluxe, Disney, Facebook, Google Play, NBC Universal, Premiere Digital, Prime Focus, Verizon, ViacomCBS, WarnerMedia and ZDF.
Last month, this work was published as Guidance DPP007: Best practices for content supplier onboarding. And, because we believe it’s so important for the industry to work to common best practices in areas such as onboarding, we have made it available not just to DPP members, but to everyone.
The document lays out ten commonly agreed steps in the onboarding process:
A considerable portion of the guidance covers the three areas of documentation: technical, project and operational. It recognises that although a single universal format for international VOD content delivery is unlikely, significant efficiencies will be achieved if all parties specify the same key aspects of their technical and editorial requirements in a clear and unambiguous way.
The build and test process has many smaller steps, and the content of each will differ depending on the organisations, content and technical requirements involved. But laying out the key elements in an agreed way, with defined inputs and outputs for each stage, clarifies the process. That in turn means faster, less costly, onboarding.
“Although a single universal format for international VOD content delivery is unlikely, significant efficiencies will be achieved if all parties specify the same key aspects of their technical and editorial requirements in a clear and unambiguous way”
As Alessandro Capitani of Disney put it: “This results in a shorter time to complete the onboarding process and smoother ongoing delivery.”
Abigail Hughes of Premiere Digital echoed that, saying: “This guidance brings some much-needed structure to the process and highlights the importance of mutual understanding and collaboration. Such guidance is vital in helping companies realise efficiencies in this key part of the distribution supply chain.”
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Collaborations are forever
The lessons we can take from this work are not only about onboarding. There are other operational complexities that needlessly plague media businesses and could be ironed out if we recognise that we all stand to gain. That’s why the DPP works with its member companies to facilitate work such as this - meeting a real business need with effective, actionable recommendations.
Crucially, it’s the DPP’s unique community of content producers, distributors, service providers and tech vendors that makes this all possible. Every one of them has problems to solve, and every one of them has something to offer.
This week, 12-16 April, is DPP Innovation Week, a remarkable five-day series of events that allows DPP member companies to learn what’s new in the media technology sphere. Buyers can find out what’s new in the minimum possible time, with almost 90 vendors delivering three-minute pitches across 10 short, themed sessions. And 20 media companies will share their challenges, aspirations, and upcoming projects in our Meet the Customers sessions. Plus, we’ll have 4 CEO Sessions, discussing the fundamentals of media innovation with senior executives from Signiant, Brightcove, Convergent Risks and Bitmovin, plus special guests.
It’s an unmissable chance to get up to date with companies from across the supply chain - whether they can help solve your business problems, or you can help with theirs. Because bringing customers and suppliers together to solve problems is what the DPP is all about.
Rowan de Powerai is chief technology officer, DPP