CTAM Live: Digital Rights Key To Managing Chaos

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BOSTON--With the world of new media continuing to evolve quickly, flexible digital rights management systems are key to keeping executives abreast -- and ahead -- of the changing landscape.

That was the consensus of executives discussing “Managing Digital Rights –The Link to Marketing Strategy & Operations,” a Sunday afternoon workshop session at the CTAM Summit ’08.

Led by moderator Howard Homonoff, director, entertainment, media and communications advisory, Price Waterhouse Coopers, the group expounded on the interdisciplinary nature of the function and its origins in business strategy and development, as well as how it then manifests with the acquisition/distribution of programming or content, and, in turn, what that means for personnel working on the technological, financial and legal sides of the house.

Clara Kim, executive vice president of business affairs at Discovery Communications, said the non-fiction content provider began implementing vendor RSG's Rights Logic management system some 18 months ago and has been continually updating the scalable program. The data system keeps track on the content, suppliers, new media applications and transferability, among other information.

Now, Discovery is in the second phase with the system, as more employees are gaining knowledge about everything that's contained therein and how they can access it. Moreover, Kim said, employees are learning “where to find the support if they don’t get the answers they need.”

She noted that other programmers, including Rainbow, Turner, Lifetime and Viacom, are also at various stages of developing similar rights matrixes.

R.B. Lerch, vice president of programming and original content at Charter Communications, said the operator not only has a data bank for content rights, but also for retransmission-consent. With hundreds of systems in hundreds of marketing and the ownership changes that have roiled this sector, this system has proven invaluable.

“Management had the foresight years ago to set up a system that reflects ownership, and key contract terms and conditions,” he said, noting that while it's overseen by the operator’s legal department, “anybody in the field has access to it.”

Elana Sofko, director of global media partnerships at Nokia, said the phone company only entered the content side of the mobile business this year and its software and services unit is creating its own data bank.

She said Nokia is hiring people with backgrounds in entertainment and the digital media realm to anticipate the next waves in content and its delivery.

Hersh said the data systems and people maintaining need to remain flexible.

While much of the rights management pertaining to high-definition and VOD applications has become relatively standard at this juncture, the tough part comes when “you haven’t anticipated something. Hopefully, you have constructed deals that give you some protection.”

Click here for more CTAM Summit '08 coverage.