The media and entertainment industry has been one of the most obviously impacted by the digital revolution, with a huge shift from the mass consumption of content determined by the provider, to highly-individualised consumption dictated by customer choice.
Traditional television broadcasters no longer dominate what a consumer watches, on which channel at a certain time. OTT providers instead offer the choice and flexibility for customers to select what they want to watch, when, where and on what device. Similarly, radio broadcasters no longer set the trends of popular music, as music streaming services offer gigantic catalogues of material accessible in any order, all by voice control.
A far less obvious consequence of this paradigm shift has been the impact to the administration of content behind-the-scenes, in this case specifically, rights management. As delivery and consumption patterns of content have changed, the rights to content have become far more complex and fragmented to account for the myriad ways in which content is accessed.
As the battle for rights ownership continues to escalate, how a business manages its content rights and positions the systems that administer those rights has now become a competitive differentiator. Those companies that do this well reap many benefits, including reduced risk of conflict, less manual intervention, lower administration costs and of course, increased revenues.
There are several common attributes that exist within the most successful rights management systems, although they may be executed in different ways depending on the exact requirements of the business. Regardless of the level of customisation that inevitably goes into any effective rights management system, the following elements should be included.
A Single Source of Truth
Rights information is a valuable asset to many business units for a variety of purposes, but all too often each department will operate its own siloed management system related to its own specific functions. Restricting the sharing and visibility of rights information in this way can compromise overall efficacy and hamper the business’s ability to optimise revenue streams from licensing.
Utilising a central repository for all rights information ensures that it remains consistent, up-to-date and is easily found and accessed by all relevant teams. Administration costs are significantly reduced and so is the risk of any rights conflicts, while visibility over the full portfolio can help to ensure full utilisation of all available rights and optimise revenue.
Standardised & Structured Data
A comprehensive rights management system requires uniformity in recorded information and terminology to ensure the full picture of rights availability, usage, contract terms and history is available to the relevant users.
Rights information needs to be captured and recorded in a clear structure, with pre-defined dimensions to categorise details like products, categories, distribution channels, territories, restrictions, etc. It’s crucial to consider both granular and strategic information within these definitions to support differing user and reporting requirements, but the requirement for detailed and accurate data must not prohibit system flexibility as requirements evolve in the future.
Creating a central repository for rights information inevitably requires the unification of the existing rights datasets that may be scattered across departments and locations. The integration must go beyond just the data however and must facilitate a collaborative approach to rights management and monetisation, with each business function sharing knowledge that supports informed decision-making by others.
The integration of supporting systems, such as ERP or DAM, can further extend the opportunities for advantages in areas such as reporting and extended workflow automation.
Consideration should also be given to integrating external partners and customers into the rights ecosystem. Empowering content creators and their supporting teams to monitor and manage relevant rights records can help to maintain accuracy and reduce the risk of liability.
With a comprehensive, centralised rights management system that is built on structured data, is fully integrated into the wider enterprise and enables external customer access to account records, it becomes possible to introduce automated workflows to handle rights management.
Automated functions may include, for example, usage analytics and reporting, rights renewal, accounting processes, or potentially even fully-automated rights purchasing from discovery and availability to licensing and invoicing. By automating core workflows and reducing human interventions processes become faster, more efficient and less prone to error. Reducing the administrative costs in this can additionally increase the profitability of smaller-scale licensing deals which may have been prohibitively costly in the past.
Rights Management at the Core
When the core business model is monetising content, the rights to content are effectively the primary business asset. It therefore makes sense that the functions and processes supporting or enabling this monetisation should be built around the central pillar of rights information.
Rights management systems are often relegated to the periphery or bolted-on to other enterprise-wide systems however, rather than placed at the forefront. In these situations, the systems tend only to function as tracking and reporting facilities rather than as enablers of opportunities, potentially opening up an increased risk of liability.
By elevating rights information so that it influences and enables downstream processes, rights conflicts can be eliminated and revenues can be increased as licensing details are fed proactively to sales teams enabling them to capitalise on available assets.
In the battle for content rights, those media and entertainment companies that follow these principles when implementing rights management systems will emerge as the victors. By enabling the diversification and optimisation of revenue streams from content monetisation, increasing internal administration efficiencies, reducing the risk of liability from rights conflicts and empowering employees across the enterprise to leverage rights information to capitalise on every opportunity, these companies can stay one step ahead of the competition.