EIDR’s board of directors kicked off the 11th annual EIDR meeting on April 13 with an outline of EIDR’s strategic vision for 2021.
The opening panel session “Setting the Stage for EIDR’s Annual Participant Meeting (and Beyond)” that was part of the EIDR Annual Participant Meeting also addressed the role of EIDR in the growth of streaming platforms, the goal of ubiquitous coverage of new film and TV content, and the continuing plans for platform refresh.
The “big goal” of 2020 for EIDR chairman Bill Kotzman was “moving the backend over to a new platform and make sure we had a stable platform” in place, he said.
“We spent 2020 looking at options about who that new provider could be and I think we found one that is incentivized to do a great job for us and has done a great job for us,” he told the other panelists and viewers.
“We transitioned, I think, pretty much on schedule, which is pretty rare in this industry and I think they’ve done a great job kind of transitioning partners – people who were using the API and stuff — over to that new platform,” he explained.
Calling that probably the “biggest win for last year — just making sure that we had a platform to build on for the next five or 10 years,” he said that was the “critical piece for me.”
Agreeing, moderator Eric Iverson, CTO of media and entertainment at Amazon Web Services, said: “It seems like we’re at a pretty good place. It seems like Premiere Digital,” the company it selected, is “doing a pretty good job. Are you pretty happy with where things are at today?”
“Yes, I’m very happy,” Kotzman replied, noting he has a “very strong relationship” with Premiere.
Turning to how other goals fared in 2020, Kotzman said: “We talked about the 100 percent coverage of new content coming to all platforms. Personally, I don’t think we’re where I’d like to be. And that’s why it’s still a top priority for us” in 2021.
What “threw a wrench in the system” was the COVID-19 pandemic because, since March 2020, “we’ve all kind of hunkered down and focused on our core companies’ problems rather than some of this industry work,” Kotzman explained. “Fortunately, the EIDR team and our vendors did well to stabilize the platform. Personally, I was really focused on making sure we could run our own business and kind of get through that year.”
2020 turned out to be a “very challenging year for many reasons,” Kotzman said, noting: “User demand for streaming services and for TVOD doubled basically last March and April for a while. We had PVOD. We had all of these different challenges. So in terms of our focus on EIDR, it was less than ideal from my perspective and so I want to kind of refocus the team on really driving towards those metrics that we talked about last year: Those same goals.”
Of course, all large industry changes take time to achieve, Kotzman said. After all, “these are hard problems moving industries,” he noted. EIDR has “been doing this for a while and we’re making a bunch of progress [but] we still have a lot of progress to make,” he conceded.
If EIDR’s universal identifiers are used well in the future, EIDR can improve universal search and discovery, he added, noting that one big positive is that “there’s been a shift in attitude” among the studios and there’s progress being made now in implementing EIDR.
A ‘robust, nimble’ platform
“Now that we’ve moved to a robust, nimble platform, we can really be scalable for our users and be proactive,” according to EIDR’s Alicia Tolbert.
“We all have unique problems to our companies and we also have industrywide problems or issues that we share and EIDR is now well-positioned on this new platform to address whatever comes and also to help forecast and let our members know, ‘hey, this is what we’re seeing coming our way — whether that’s machine learning and AI — and, because of this new platform, we are available for these challenges,” she explained.
On the problem of duplication, she said: “For us, content management and title management starts the supply chain. We’re at the tippy top. So having a duplicate ruins all of the downstream work — just grinds it to a halt. So the fact that that was prioritized and handled by EIDR really is just a feather in the tech team’s cap. So, for us, a new platform and tackling dedupes has been astronomical.”
EIDR also can also play a significant role when it comes to localizing content, she noted. With so many languages, “we have to have some unique identifier that can help link titles to their component languages,” she explained. Viewers “like to see content in their language; they like to see their culture represented as well,” she said, adding localization, therefore, is “a requirement – it’s not a passing fad.”
At this time, “EIDR is well-placed to help with those workflows as companies expand to a global market,” she pointed out.
Because of the success of Disney Plus and the recent launch of the Star streaming service, “it kind of helped us make some operational supply chain cases that maybe was difficult prior to that,” according to Artin Nazarian, executive director of integration and digital distribution strategy at Walt Disney Studios.
Now, EIDR is a requirement for Disney, he said, explaining: “Unless a title has an EIDR” unique identifier, “operations actually can’t take action against it.” For Disney, “we need one flow for all content, so that’s kind of forced the situation – thankfully,” he said.
“Automation was a big driver too,” he pointed out. “We needed something to automate the assets against the avail, against the versions, and EIDR was already there – so it was “just an easy adoption once we convinced everybody” at Disney, he said.
Disney is trying to use EIDR to provide more transparency around what movies it’s producing, he added.
Metadata and IDs are ‘like oxygen’
“Metadata and IDs are like oxygen to us” at Xperi Corp, according to Scott Maddux, its VP of content strategy and business development.
“We leverage this and use this in our day-to-day existence, and IDs are everywhere. It’s a critical component,” he explained. Universal ID “applies to everything. It applies to every movie, every TV show … and then every major league sports team, every game, every stadium, every athlete has an ID” also, he said. The same is true for musical artists, albums, songs and live music venues.
“So one of the things EIDR has to do is prioritize – very carefully and very rigorously,” according to Maddux. EIDR is “very focused” on the over-the-top, streaming space and video entertainment, and it is “prioritizing the tier one streaming services,” he said, adding: “We’re focused on the most valuable and highly trafficked assets for both media companies and all of our stakeholders here and the consumers. It’s an opportunity because we can focus on a relatively narrow space and then drive the greatest value across the industry.”
So that has been “one of the core areas of focus and sort of the shift for EIDR over the past year,” he went on to say. The board has “definitely been driving towards that and I think that’s proving out as you see the representation of the board here,” he noted.
Overcoming a challenge
Noting this was his first annual board meeting, EIDR’s Brad Collar said his company, Warner, is “making sure that all of our new titles that are going to HBO Max — and that’s on a global basis — are being registered with EIDR.”
It’s a “must-have” that all the metadata must be localized also, he said, noting it’s been a challenge for his company, which is now made up of three large companies — Warner, HBO and Turner – that are trying to operate as one.
EIDR has been a big part of being able to deduplicate its internal systems, he said, pointing out that the company had 5-6 internal metadata systems globally across the three divisions that have merged.
Warner is overcoming the challenge but this has “been a grind for the last 12 months,” he conceded.