It is all too easy to think of asset management as an activity in the present tense: It is a system to help us find content now. But its historical role is every bit as important. For a broadcaster, the asset management system should support the ingest of library content as well as new material, and most important, it should protect it for the future.
Today’s content will probably have commercial value; repurposing it will be a source of continuing revenue. And it will certainly have cultural and social value, as a history of what we watch. So it is vital that the content is not just preserved, but is accessible far into the future.
The challenge here is that technology is constantly changing. The way that we store content is necessarily migrating, which is generally a good thing, as each new generation brings improved quality and performance. But the flip side of technological innovation is that the old formats become obsolete. If you have an archive on 2in quad VTR tape, then today you have a serious problem accessing it.
In broadcast, we have a secondary problem. For most of its history, the particular challenges of television meant that we were forced to rely on application-specific technologies, and these inevitably were driven by proprietary standards. Today, much of what we need to do can now be accomplished by standard IT equipment and protocols — but the temptation remains to continue the mantra that television is different; therefore, it needs specific solutions.
So we continue to see proprietary solutions proposed for the broadcast industry. That raises a number of issues, including portability — it is hard to take one proprietary solution to another vendor’s hardware — and cost — it is expensive for the broadcast industry to keep reinventing the wheel.
As an asset management specialist, focusing on the challenges of preserving archives and making them widely available, I would argue that now is the time to take that giant step away from proprietary solutions toward an IT standard that is designed specifically to meet the challenges of longevity and portability.