September 16, 2016 6 months 1 week ago

CBC, with other public broadcasters, unveil plans for global content distribution market

MONTREAL — The most newsworthy and groundbreaking presentation at the Public Broadcasters International conference in Montreal this week was given at 7:30 a.m. to a sparse crowd by a man reading a prepared speech with no multimedia elements.

But the project he was presenting could be nothing short of revolutionary for the distribution of television content around the world.

It’s called Panora.tv, and the goal is to automate the buying and selling of content so that smaller producers and broadcasters can make transactions with a minimum of overhead costs.

Jean Mongeau, general manager and chief revenue officer for media solutions at CBC/Radio-Canada (pictured), explained that the idea came when CBC was looking at selling a TV series, but found that the costs of closing the deal were equal to or greater than the revenue they would get from the sale.

Large broadcasters, including the CBC, and large distributors succeed in selling content internationally, Mongeau said, but “the submerged part of the iceberg represents the majority of the TV buyers in the world.”

So CBC has partnered with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and France Télévisions to develop this project in the hopes of launching its first phase in the first half of 2017. In the meantime, it hopes to bring other public broadcasters on board as partners.

Many details are still to be determined, but the idea is that program buyers, whether they’re small public broadcasters or over-the-top services, can look through a catalog, acquire programming through some sort of standardized contract, and get the content formatted to the proper specifications, all automatically.

“Panora has the goal to allow access to the producers so they can self-manage the cataloging of their content, decide on what’s the material they want to put out there,” Mongeau said in an interview with Cartt.ca.

Financial details are still to be determined, but Panora would take a percentage commission from sales, with a minimum fee. The idea is to keep both as low as possible. “Our mandate is to be sustainable, not profit-driven,” said Olivier Trudeau, senior director of distribution and partnership. “It will be the lowest amount possible to make that sustainable. We can’t lose money on this but we don’t need to make money on this.”

The percentage fee will be below the standard 30% rate that distributors normally charge, so that distributors can use Panora and still get a cut of sales.

With major public broadcasters on board from the start, there’s a sufficient volume of content to create a marketplace. Prices will largely depend on how much volume there is. However, the demand is definitely there, from smaller and smaller players wanting more and more content, thanks to the proliferation of over-the-top services around the world.

“The game-changer is that OTT platforms want tonnage,” Olivier Trudeau, CBC

“The game-changer is that OTT platforms want tonnage,” Trudeau explained. Rather than just filling a 24-hour day on a linear channel, they can offer tens of thousands of hours of content, and they want as much as they can get their hands on.

Trudeau estimates that there are about 15,000 media buyers in the world, and only 2,000-to-4,000 of them are the big ones that have enough size to make international distribution deals practical. With Panora, that threshold drops dramatically.

The way to serve them, Trudeau said, was to “use B2C technology in a B2B world” by increasing automation.

Though the platform isn’t designed to benefit CBC itself all that much, it could be a way to licence content beyond the top 10 or 20 shows that the corporation sells internationally. “We produce so many hours of content that there is a gap that will be filled by this initiative,” Mongeau said.

As for CBC being a buyer on the platform, that’s not the goal either.

“We’re one of the big guys,” Trudeau said, explaining that the broadcaster can afford to be picky and demand its own contracts and special conditions. But it’s not out of the question, he said, for CBC to acquire programming this way. “Technically, yes. practically, I don’t know.”

Photo by Steve Faguy