What kind of a company am I?
A few clues.
I'm a company whose profits directly correlate to the movement and consumption of goods and services, of tangibles and intangibles. These profits, and my ability to maintain or increase profit margins, depend on my ability to store, route, view and serve information assets (i.e., digital information) on behalf of suppliers and distributors.
My most important business drivers are:
• managing a diverse community of supply-chain partners
• being able to track-and-trace, follow and distribute licensed assets
Am I a third-party logistics provider? A carrier? A manufacturer?
I'm none of the above. I'm a media and entertainment company, and mine is a perfect example of the business model media and entertainment (M&E) companies are evolving toward.
Today's M&E companies have to face the hard truth that the traditional and predictable distribution patterns upon which the industry was founded are now antiquated. The consumer today knows that if they miss a movie in the theater, they will soon be able to watch it on demand with their cable box, through the mail with their Blu-ray player, or - if the movie's distributor has optimized for their core value in the marketplace - over the internet with a smartphone, laptop or tablet.
So the key question now is, "How does a modern M&E company manage and secure its core value in the marketplace?"
The short answer: Use the versatile, multi-tier data-exchange systems used by many of the leading transportation and logistics (T&L) providers today. These providers have been adjusting to changing formats, mediums and data tracking for years now. The best-of-breed T&L providers are now managing, securing and tracking file and data exchange well beyond their four walls.
Providing a solid financial forecast for new and existing entertainment assets is challenging in any marketplace, let alone one that is turbulent and diffuse. No reasonable person should expect to reap sustainable, high-margin revenue from a business ecosystem that consists of a variable set of technology and distribution points, combined with a set of partially defined and co-managed gate points to collect money.
Yet this is exactly what the M&E industry is facing today.
Fortunately, the leading supply service providers have been dealing with and thriving in this type of marketplace for decades, and the advent of better technology and data integration sharing have created solid and sustainable business models.
Here are a few key points:
• First, M&E companies need to realize the concept of interoperability (or interconnect) when it comes to their own assets, and assets they may have direct or indirect control over (movie-title rights from competing studios, for instance).
• Second, it's not the business of the end consumer to rationalize how they purchase, download or even steal M&E assets. If an asset is available via any kind of technical or physical means, assume it will be consumed.
• Third, tracking needs to be able to happen across multiple tiers by multiple parties even if there is no universal title ID. Yes, it would help greatly to have a unique ID, but it's not necessary if transaction event data is correlated consistently. T&L companies track everything from truckloads to pallets to item/UPC (GTIN) data. Granted, they have the advantage of leveraging standard packaging conventions, but the information exchange and reconciliation requirements are actually more complex.
• Finally, tracking is about "endpoint" identification and corresponding events that have taken place throughout the supply and distribution chain. All M&E companies have the capacity to account for external parties who receive, route or have rights to their assets.
The network effect, and the various methods through which systems and humans exchange data, is the most important factor to consider. In some cases (e.g., a digital-asset file exchange with channel partners), it will be critical to manage and centralize. In other scenarios, it might be beneficial to track the data on the "edge" by receiving "base acknowledge" and/or "party registry" information (e.g., asset XYZ, channel company 123, online distribution, X units, X-dollar price per unit, etc.).
Business interaction networks (or perhaps more appropriately here, entertainment interaction networks) must be able to respond to an asset owner's need to manage and track assets across the many points of entry where they are consumed, enjoyed, paid for, downloaded and shared. This level of asset visibility and control is critical if a company is to maintain any kind of business model today. Entertainment interaction networks can act as a platform for tracking, storing and securing asset-specific information, and for authenticating the audience (consumer) so the asset owner knows the audience has the rights and privileges to see and/or hear the relevant asset.
This is much more than master data management and ERP. This is event and content correlation across interaction patterns. It's the ability to provide accurate, on-demand information to business partners, regulators and legal entities. The "single version of the truth" will not be stored in a central database. Instead, the aggregation and content from data interaction will be the fountainhead from which the truth springs.
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