Producing content at scale
Operating out of both their New York office and a newly built studio on the Universal lot in LA, the hundred-strong production team works together closely to create content across the business’s three arms. There is LXTV, for which they produce weekly tv shows along with teasers and promotional clips; Cozi TV, their retro station, which replays classics like Magnum P.I and Knight Rider and requires its own steady stream of commercials and promo clips; and Skycastle, NBC’s commercial production house, which produces content for clients such as 3M, Ford, and American Express, through their network of sales managers.
Mike Fernandes, NBCUniversal’s Post Production Operations Manager says the company’s content requirements are continually increasing: “We’re producing five shows a week, plus commercials, plus one offs and specials, and all those are happening simultaneously. It gets pretty crazy and it just seems to get bigger and bigger every year.
But to create that much content in a fast-moving industry with its ever-changing requirements and trends, innovation is critical to staying on top.
Consumers of media in 2017 have a seemingly insatiable appetite for content, meaning plenty of opportunities for NBCUniversal to capitalize on their content creation expertise. Mike is excited about the fast-moving nature of the media business, and proactively searches out new trends and opportunities.
“We're currently looking at 4k distribution and getting ready for the new broadcast standards. That’s going to blend a lot of online and broadcast capabilities together. It's moving much more towards an internet-network-based infrastructure and delivery which is interesting.”
As with most new technologies, the key is balance:
“We've talked about dabbling with VR but we're not too sure about that yet. We don’t know how many people want to wear goggles on their face to watch a show. We’re always trying to stay on top of it but for us it's setting ourselves up so we have the ability to pivot really quickly with whatever direction that we think we want to go in. And then even pivot back if something doesn’t work out.”
The biggest challenge: communication
With this constant growth and never ending stream of content, a seamless workflow is imperative, and Mike and the production team understand that a major opportunity lies in the company’s ability to work together and remove the production bottlenecks of the past. When asked about the biggest challenge for producing and delivering content, Mike says, “it's always communication. It's always when does this need to be done by, who is it being done for, who needs to approve it, did they approve it? The people aspect of making anything is always the trickiest variable.”
When you're making 50–60 videos a month, with a team of 100, plus account managers and multiple clients, this is no small problem to be solved.
“We'll put everything through Wipster. Even locally, when the editor is sitting right next to their producer, we’ll still upload into Wipster so that the producer can review it whenever they are ready. Otherwise it takes a lot of time out for the editor to having to stop what they're doing just to sit and screen with the producer. It's going to be like Oh wait, I didn't hear that. Rewind it, do it again. Instead we can just provide a link and say ‘Watch it when you're ready and let me know’.
And with the newly built studio in LA, that communications bridge with the New York team, plus the need to bring in other contractors and freelancers seamlessly, is incredibly important. “We generally will start the projects out here and finish them in New York, because New York is where we keep the archive library. Everything kind of gets funneled back into New York in general.”
It’s a far cry from the previous methods. Mike says, “there was a lot of miscommunication. It was a lot of Dropbox links being sent back and forth for people to download and look at. You were getting timecode stamps from people that didn’t line up with the video you were looking at. You would miss marks and miss notes because you were like I think I got everything? Wipster really solved that problem for us and made it very easy to just watch the video along with your edit and be like Okay, this is the thing they wanted me to change.”
“So Wipster really freed up a lot of editors’ time. For the producer and client side, I think they enjoy being able to watch it whenever they are ready and knowing that they can really focus on giving good feedback. I also think they enjoy being able to do it their own way. They can watch the same piece over and over again without driving the editor crazy.”
A media company for the future
For NBCUniversal, a phenomenal opportunity lies in combining their heritage of almost a century of industry-leading content creation with the array of new platforms and software now available. A savvy approach to innovation, along with fine tuning their production workflow, will ensure they stay at the top for another hundred years.