How BT Vision manages Digital Content

We're keen to have interesting 'enabling' companies at the Telco 2.0 Industry Brainstorms. So we're delighted to have a relatively small and new UK-based company called AssetHouse stimulating the Digital Home workstream in a few weeks time.

They have pioneered a software architecture that allows telcos, cablecos and other 'content service providers' to separate the management of content services from their delivery applications. This is important because it removes the technology "silos" that typically exist between different delivery channels, and in so doing enables the delivery of content - quickly and cost-effectively - to multiple devices: TV, PC, PDA, mobile phone, games consoles. This helps the service provider adapt their offerings to consumer preferences much more efficiently.

Edward Roberts, a Director at AssetHouse, will be talking specifically about their work with BT Vision in the 'Case Studies/New Concepts' section of the brainstorm. I asked him to describe more about what his company does and why it's important to 'Content Service Providers' (CSPs):

"In recent months, players such as BT, BSkyB, Channel Four, Orange, Tiscali and Virgin Media have unveiled plans to launch a range of next-generation broadband services (including video-on-demand) to allow subscribers to access, download and share movies, video, music and other forms of digital content.

A key challenge, however, for these and all players in this market has been to build an infrastructure that allows content services to be created once, but used many times in different incarnations - so they can accelerate time to market, reduce operational costs and improve quality of service.

In theory, if the Content Service Provider (CSP) could take responsibility for the entire product lifecycle, they could add considerable value to all stakeholders in the value chain. However, the main barrier to achieving this has been managing the data and metadata, specifically:

  • ingesting metadata from content providers or third party digital asset management (DAM) systems
  • managing B2B relationships and associated terms and conditions
  • amending and enhancing content metadata
  • creating content associations
  • adding editorial voice
  • exploiting delivery service capabilities and avoiding their constraints
  • utilising customer and transactional data
  • providing inputs and outputs to Business Support Systems (BSS), media management systems (encode, transcode and storage) and delivery technologies.

CSPs have traditionally struggled to meet these challenges and thus take advantage of pent up market demand. This is partly because the technology tools for CSPs to manage their content operations effectively have just not been available. As a result, they've suffered from following problems:

  • The cost of content re-use has been prohibitively high, because content has needed to be re-purposed - formatted, tagged and coded - each time it is used in another application
  • Content has been handled in a monolithic fashion, making it impossible to "slice and dice" effectively into new services
  • Time-to-market has been slow and expensive - it is simply not efficient to build content services one application at a time
  • Systems haven't been designed to handle the level of interaction from customers or partners that is required throughout the content supply chain, or to enable content to be delivered to multiple devices

In the past value was created by producing mass market content and owning access to a limited number of platforms. AssetHouse's technology development has focused on helping CSPs generate more value by selling personalised content based on data derived from the media itself, from an expert knowledge of the content, and from commercial relationships with the supply chain and the consumer.

We created a Digital Product Management platform to support supplier and content management, product management, and editorial voice and delivery channel management. BT use this as the underlying technology for the content operations backbone for their groundbreaking BT Vision service.

Our software supports a content operations application that sits behind and functions independently of the delivery application and set-top box. It enables BT Vision to describe and manage content, model content services, and uphold business and service rules consistently across multiple content services.

As a result, BT Vision is able to roll out broadband services such as video and music on demand, EPG, and timeshift TV over broadband rapidly and cost-effectively. As demand for the service grows, the AssetHouse solution should allow BT to launch new content services whether they are be interactive, games or simple applications to multiple platforms - TV, PC and mobile phones - from a single content operation. This gives BT the flexibility to follow its own creative direction and outsource development to independent organizations, while helping to contain costs.

Our view is that the expertise and technology to effectively manage the 'digital product lifecycle' necessary is now available to CSPs. This should allow them to capitalise on continual advances in digital content and trends in 'Digital Lifestyle'.

I'll be talking about the practicalities of making this work at the Telco 2.0 'Industry Brainstorm'."