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22 September 2022

Forget super aggregation, broadcasters need metadata aggregation

MetaBroadcast is not an affiliated company of the formerly-named Facebook giant targeting metaverse domination, but a UK-based metadata specialist that has spied a gap in the market for metadata aggregation.

Founded by a former BBC employee, MetaBroadcast is not quite a business spin-out as such, but more of a mindset spin-out, according to CEO Jamie Mackinlay, speaking to Faultline at IBC 2022. Naturally, the BBC became MetaBroadcast’s first customer, and now it boasts the likes of BARB (The Broadcasters Audience Research Board), Radio Times, and Amazon’s IMDb.

An apparently common problem among broadcasters is an inability to ingest metadata from more than one source. MetaBroadcast’s bread and butter is in normalizing or “flattening out” metadata – but the vendor wants people to know that it is more than a steamroller of metadata. It identifies content assets too and their content IDs, bringing value to data files with deeplinks and images.

The company’s cloud platform, called Atlas, applies AI, machine learning and advanced data science techniques to acquire, transform, classify and harmonize metadata from preferred sources.

For instance, a broadcaster’s content asset will have its original content ID, but when sitting somewhere in a third-party SVoD archive, this same asset will have a separate content ID. So, you have streaming assets and linear assets being mixed around in content archives, with different IDs from different sources, which MetaBroadcast helps to capture and pull into a single database.

It then enriches the information available and creates deep links between metadata from multiple sources.

But surely run of the mill broadcast content management systems cater for ingest and harmonization from multiple metadata sources? Well, we are informed that a typical broadcaster’s CMS is not designed for multiple feeds, which reduces the ability to enrich data.

This is largely about automating the whole process – reducing human intervention and redundant work by automating as much as 90% of record processing. The result is potentially considerable cost savings.

Mackinlay argues the point for a “data mesh” – aggregating a mess of millions of instances of incomplete, inconsistent or faulty data, which can then be turned into enriched metadata files for distribution to a customer’s chosen destination.

“We are one of the biggest secrets in the UK,” claims Mackinlay. But what happens once that secret gets out? Will broadcasters decide they can quite easily change their stripes internally to aggregate and harmonize metadata from multiple sources?

Perhaps, but having been active for 15 years without a single patent suggests otherwise. Mackinlay, who only took the helm in early August 2022, believes some components could be patentable, but protecting IP is certainly not high on the list of priorities.

“We are the only missionary vendor out there,” Mackinlay continues. “This is not easy to replicate. It’s not impossible, but we are positioned as a non-threatening partner.”

As such, MetaBroadcast also claims to bring value to recommendation engines, providing a consolidated set of data to tell a “fuller” story. MetaBroadcast is hopeful that partnering with personalization software suppliers will create a quid pro quo relationship where existing customers are advised to source metadata from MetaBroadcast.

Simply.TV could be considered a key competitor, although MetaBroadcast appears to be behind the idea that the Danish content discovery specialist is pushing – helping clients move beyond metadata by improving the indexing and enriching of metadata across linear and non-linear TV to compete against streaming services and build new revenue streams.

Gracenote cannot be considered a direct competitor, as the Nielsen-owned specialist sells its own metadata-based products. Metadata is the only thing that MetaBroadcast does – no search, no EPG, no recommendations.

Clients can still buy from Gracenote etc. but MetaBroadcast’s pitch to the video market is whether they want to create value data? A big challenge for the vendor is to show a different impact, and convince a prospective client why they should consider two metadata specialists within their ranks.

When MetaBroadcast talks about value data, one example of a basic currency is federated search.

Another way to look at MetaBroadcast is a company that cleanses data from competitors in a consolidating market.

Owned by London-based Tern Capital, MetaBroadcast is hoping for expansion outside of the UK market within the next three to five years, initially targeting mainland Europe and North America.

The 14-person team claims to have been cloud-native since 2007 – having never done a server deployment.