CBC recruits online asset manager for A People

The CBC is using today’s technology to organize yesterday’s history for easier use tomorrow.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation will use Media360 asset management software from Westboro, Mass.-based Ascential Software Corp. to power parts of its 17-part broadcast project Canada: A People’s History.

Philip Page, executive director of the media and Web-publishing group at Ascential, said asset management of this kind is all about “collecting content and making it easy to find so people find it and use it and reuse it as often as possible.”

He explained that Media360 is an end-to-end media asset management solution designed to do this throughout the enterprise.

“Collect it, digitize it, index it, search it, display it, distribute it and then keep it safe in an archive until I need it again,” he said in summing up the project, but added that it is easier said than done when trying to catalogue a massive amount of information.

The 17-part series, produced in both English and French, covers over 15,000 years of history and includes a two-volume book in each language, home video in VHS and DVD format, classroom teaching materials and an over 350-page Web site produced in both English and French by the CBC.

“They are producing a television series on the history of Canada, so their first problem was that they have a lot of video, a lot more video than you will see in the television program, so they have to sort through and narrow down to the most relevant material,” he said. He continued that organizational issues exist far outside the CBC. “In nearly every organization in the world that has information and material, that material is currently on physical video tapes on a shelf somewhere. The older that that material is, the more likely it is that the material has deteriorated because it has been stuck on the shelf.”

The CBC was able to integrate an online presence with television delivery using Media360, which manages the full collection of video, text and image data that support the Web component of the project. This, said Mark Hyland, director, broadband and digital services at CBC-TV, allows the broadcaster to provide viewers with access to historical information, and to build a foundation for continued education, research and entertainment projects.

“We wanted to make sure that we built a resource that would be around for a long time and focus it on students, so it was really clear that we needed a good database,” Hyland said. “In a couple of years, after the series had aired, there might be new information, we want to be able to reconfigure what we had. We also wanted to see about reconfiguring content. Our success over the next few years is hinged on our ability to manage content really, really well – to be able to put our hands on a certain piece of footage or a certain clip for a certain story really quickly.”

Hyland said the CBC chose Ascential based on the strength it showed in partnership with CNN, and the fact that the company was willing to partner with the CBC, instead of insisting on a vendor and user sort of relationship. He added that while Ascential was the best option for the CBC, it was a challenge to ask TV and Web producers to learn database publishing.

Elizabeth Sun, a senior program director at Meta Group, said all broadcasters better get used to the idea of asset management.

“If they don’t, they will become extinct,” she said. “It really is that critical.”

Sun said broadcasters usually end up “sending some intern that is working for $15,000 a year” to go through the files and the tapes to find what they are looking for.

“With the type of software Ascential has, you can input all the information you have digitally and instead of going through the tapes, you can just type in whatever search term I would like to use, and up would pop those files,” she said. “I can save time and I can get things on air more quickly.”

In addition, broadcasters will be able to go back to get material to use it for commercial purposes.

“It’s an efficiency tool as well as an e-commerce tool,” she said. “The efficiency factor makes it so running around and looking for things doesn’t make any sense anymore.”