Total Pageviews

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Prime Focus to steer AP’s digital drive

This story first appeared in DNA Money edition on Saturday, February 25, 2012.

Prime Focus Technologies (PFT), an Indian content operations solutions provider, has secured a huge contract from The Associated Press (AP) that involves digitisation of the global news network’s unique video archive. AP is looking to take the archive to a whole new audience across the digital spectrum. The project is part of the news agency’s broader strategy of multimillion-dollar upgrade of its video business.

Ramki Sankaranarayanan, CEO, Prime Focus India, and president and CEO of Prime Focus Technologies Pvt, said the fairly large project was part of a public tendering process wherein AP had invited bids from across the globe. “The tender process was kick-started in July last year and we won the competitive process. It’s a large tender though I will not be able to share financial details owing to the non-disclosure agreement (NDA),” he said.

For the PFT management, this deal opens up a very significant business opportunity as several other big networks around the world would be looking to digitise their catalogue as well. “It is a very innovative and cost effective way of dealing with digitisation of content / archive and we are bringing in a lot of value addition to the table. We are expecting this development will drive a significant amount of project traffic to our facilities,” the CEO said.

PFT’s global competitors in this space include the likes of Technicolor and Deluxe Entertainment, among others. However, it could not be ascertained whether the two companies had taken part in this tendering process.

AP’s digitisation exercise is largely fashioned to let the company switch its entire newsgathering, production and distribution system to the high definition (HD) mode. The trigger, AP officials said, was primarily to meet technical, editorial and business requirements of its global customers in this digital age.

AP’s film and tape archive contains around 70,000 hours worth of footage, including more than 1.3 million global news and entertainment stories, in 16 mm film and videotape, dating back to the beginning of the 20th century.

PFT will be driving this project using its proprietary content operations platform and supporting services solution called CLEAR. The digitisation work will be undertaken from its facilities in the US (New York) and UK (London), in addition to Indian facilities operating out of Mumbai and Bangalore.

“Currently, we have a team of over 550 developers writing bespoke scripts to support the innovative workflows required by this project. We will also utilise our own cloud technology for supporting services,” said Sankaranarayanan.

According to Alwyn Lindsey, director - international archives at AP, the company was looking for a partner with the ability to handle their global business needs and a project of this scale and thus, PFT was picked up. “Today’s market is driven by giving customers breadth of content, ease of access, and value for money. While we have already digitised around 10% of our archive, it has been a top priority to get all of our most saleable archive footage online and make it available to our customers, wherever in the world they may be,” said Lindsey.

The stakes are high. News networks like CNN, CBS, Al Jazeera typically tend to deal in their content in a unique way, which explains why the need for content is going through the roof. “All these networks now have a mechanism to fulfil that requirement in an effective manner,” Sankaranarayanan said.

In fact, PFT has already been working with a host of Indian and international entities on digitising archive content.

Some of the organisations currently using their service include British Movietone Library, British Film Institute, Imperial War Museum, IMG, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Eros International.

On the possible size of this market in India or globally and the extent of business PFT will be looking to tap going forward, Sankaranarayanan said, “I do not know if there is any formal research done on the market size.” PFT’s internal estimates, however, indicate that billions of dollars are spent on digitisation. “While this is a split between print and moving images, it is the latter where we see a significant growth happening in the years to come,” he added.

PFT will have to deliver the entire digitised archive and create nearly 4 million new assets in 18 months. The scope of work will involve digitising 3,000 hours of film with an average of 60 news stories per hour (i.e. creating a total of 900,000 files) and 29,000 hours of video with an average of 20 news stories per hour (i.e. creating a total of 2,900,000 files). The newly digitised content will appear daily on AP Archive’s website which will be facilitated by a dedicated connectivity between PFT and AP.

No comments:

Post a Comment