ScheduALL continues to be an Integral Element in Australia Broadcaster FOXTEL’s Momentum and Growth
If you’re watching subscription television Down Under, it’s likely your TV set is tuned to FOXTEL, Australia’s leading subscription television provider. In addition to offering a diverse selection of channels and features, FOXTEL continuously comes up with new innovations to deliver its broadcasting genius to approximately six million viewers in more than 1.6 million subscribing households.
Debuting in 1995 with 20 channels, FOXTEL now offers more than 200 digital channels providing the latest news, sports, weather, entertainment, movies, documentaries, music and children’s programming. Customers can also select advanced features like FOXTEL iQ, a fully integrated personal digital recorder, as well as iSuggest, a new navigation feature offering 200 weekly movie and program suggestions for iQ recording.
In 2006, FOXTEL rolled out the 33-channel Telstra Mobile FOXTEL, one of the most substantial mobile offerings in the world. That same year, the company’s airborne service took off with the launch of FOXTEL Live2Air, consisting of 24 channels broadcast live aboard Australia’s Virgin Blue jet fleet.
FOXTEL debuted High Definition service in 2008 and currently has 15 HD channels, the most comprehensive HD offering in Australia. Additional features include TV premieres of Australian blockbuster movies through the FOXTEL On Demand HD service; Record Me, which enables viewers to record shows directly from on-air program promotions; and Sky News Local, a dedicated local news station delivering live breaking coverage of local, national and international news and Australia’s most extensive lineup of national affairs programs. The new generation FOXTEL iQHD combines HD programming with a huge disk drive and intuitive and easy to use electronic programming guide making it even easier for subscribers to watch what they want and when they want.
Last year, FOXTEL expanded its offerings via the Internet in a variety of ways. Through a partnership with Microsoft, it launched FOXTEL by Xbox LIVE – 30 channels delivered via the Internet to subscribers’ TV sets through Xbox LIVE. In addition, the network began broadcasting hundreds of available ON Demand movies and shows directly to customers’ TV sets though 780,000 Internet enabled iQ boxes.
In other industry-leading breakthroughs, FOXTEL was the first Australian network to broadcast in 3D, achieved in conjunction with FOX SPORTS. In addition, FOXTEL was the first broadcaster to offer Australians a dedicated 3D channel, called FOXTEL 3D.
Justin Rowley joined FOXTEL as Post-Production Supervisor in 1995, the year the network made its debut. As part of his job duties, he was responsible for booking and scheduling resources, such as people, equipment and facilities, which then included ten linear production suites, one audio suite and an Avid video editing suite.
“Back in 1996, I was creating schedules the way it was commonly done back then – by using a pencil to fill in grids on big sheets of paper or creating computer spreadsheets and printing them out each day,” he recalls.
Creating schedules by hand was not only tedious, but was also fraught with the potential for errors and omissions. Typical errors included double bookings, conflicting messages, under-utilization of available resources, and/or no record of new, revised or cancelled bookings or bookings made by others, such as field editors or facilities managers. In addition to missed or incorrect information, manual scheduling created a great deal of paperwork that had to be saved for the tedious job of reconciliation and invoicing at the end of each month.
“I printed and saved each daily schedule, and by month’s end, my desk was covered with piles of documents,” says Rowley. “It would take me a full day, and sometimes two, to work my way through all of the information, notes, changes, revisions and other notations, reconcile all the recorded hours and activities, and create and send invoices for a month’s work of completed work.”
“We knew we had to find a better way.”
“Thanks to ScheduALL, we have been able to easily handle a large and growing number of transactions and add many more facilities and resources, all without adding head count.”
After a year of enduring these scheduling challenges, Rowley discovered a promising solution on the other side of the world. An Internet search led to ScheduALL, a U.S. based software development company, which nearly a decade earlier, had developed a core scheduling software solution specifically designed to simplify and manage resources, assets and workflows for the broadcast and media industries. Intrigued, Rowley contacted the company – the start of a partnership that would last 15 years… and counting.
“When I initially contacted ScheduALL, I described our pain points and the inefficiencies of our scheduling system and noted that the system they offered appeared to be a very close match,” recalls Rowley. “As we continued to learn more about all of the features and capabilities ScheduALL offered, we were pleased to see that 99.9% of our issues were put to rest.”
Rowley purchased a ScheduALL scheduling system – compatible with the DOS operating system and Windows version 3.1.1 FOXTEL was using at that time – and set aside four weeks to learn how to use it by reading the user manual. However, that was not to be.
“When I started using our new ScheduALL system, I found it to be so user-friendly and easy to learn that that I actually became knowledgeable right away. As a result, I was able to bring the system live and start using it the following day,” he says.
Right from the start, Rowley noticed that ScheduALL significantly simplified and streamlined the scheduling process, producing results that were immediate, measurable and impressive – not the least of which was a desk that remained much neater.
“In the first month of using ScheduALL, we measurably enhanced communication, increased our efficiencies and doubled our revenues, just by using the system,” recalls Rowley. “The facilities managers and I could easily see which resources were not being used, so that we could make them available for booking, and we no longer had to deal with double bookings. We could also capture revenue right at the time of booking, instead of trying to play catch up after the job was completed.”
Over the next 15 years, FOXTEL experienced enormous growth across its operations, mushrooming from 20 to 200 channels, expanding its subscriber base and continuously developing new programming, services, features and technologies. Consequently, the network has also significantly increased its resources, such as staff – which now numbers 2,100 employees – as well as a significant amount of new equipment and facilities, including the FOXTEL Television Centre at North Ryde in Sydney, home to FOXTEL’s digital television studios, broadcast operations, and cable and satellite transmission facilities. These include 23 post-production studios, three audio suites equipped with dedicated voice-over booths, and 80 desk editing systems.
Even as FOXTEL continues to experience phenomenal growth, Rowley and his staff are still relying on ScheduALL to handle their comprehensive scheduling and resource management requirements – albeit with regular system upgrades to maintain peak compatibility with the company’s system, which now includes a SQL server and advanced DBS files.
Today, 65 employees company-wide are using ScheduALL systems to book and schedule resources, including bookings made via satellite. These employees include facilities coordinators, team managers and other key managers, including Rowley, who now holds the title of Broadcast Planning and Projects Manager, and is still responsible for scheduling and managing resources.
As FOXTEL’s operations and needs have expanded, its ScheduALL system has continued to keep pace, thanks to the utilization of several key modules, which complement the system’s core technologies and provide further customization and capabilities. These include Project Manager, which increases efficiency by grouping bookings and work orders by project to enhance reporting and billing, as well as Personnel Manager, which manages and tracks staff hours and schedules, while reducing employee conflicts and excessive overtime. In addition, to manage the enormous trove of library materials and media assets it has amassed over the years, FOXTEL relies on ScheduALL’s Media Manager module, which effectively organizes these assets, tags them with metadata and tracks their movements throughout the organization.
FOXTEL is also utilizing several of ScheduALL’s advanced financial modules, including Quotes Manager, which provides information needed to create quotes for services and resources and delivers profitability analyses by comparing projected and actual costs, as well as the Invoicing and Receivables module, which streamlines the process of generating invoices and increases the speed of its collections process.
This financial data is directly communicated to FOXTEL’s Finance department, which mines the ScheduALL system for information and shares its data through a SQL interface. This information integrates and interoperates seamlessly with FOXTEL’s PeopleSoft accounting software and other third party business systems currently in use.
This mission critical interoperability is provided by the ScheduALL Chorus interoperability framework. This best of breed technology enables disparate business systems to fluidly and effectively communicate and work together to exchange the information needed to streamline and advance projects, workflows, reporting and other key capabilities.
“No matter how much we have grown and changed over the years, ScheduALL has continued to grow and change with us and accommodate our needs, says Rowley, now a 15-year ScheduALL system user, who adds that the system has become even easier to use and continues to fulfill all of his organization’s needs.
Indeed, as FOXTEL’s capabilities have continued to grow, so have ScheduALL’s. The software company’s core scheduling product and suite of modules, as well as its advanced transmission scheduling software, have remained industry gold standards for the past two decades. ScheduALL’s success in providing the tools its customers need to provide the highest levels of quality and service is exemplified in its corporate tagline, “Making Genius Possible™. In addition, Australia, as well as the entire Asia/Pacific region, is a key focus for ScheduALL, whose clients currently include most of the region’s largest broadcasters. As the industry’s leading global provider of Enterprise Resource Management (ERM) solutions, ScheduALL continues to commit significant resources, staff and attention to expanding its APAC footprint by building new partnerships, as well as to enhancing longstanding relationships with some of the region’s most successful and dynamic enterprises – and that includes FOXTEL.
As for FOXTEL, it, too, is pleased with its ScheduALL partnership, and attributes much of its own momentum to the capabilities the company’s products continue to provide.
“Thanks to ScheduALL, we have been able to easily handle a large and growing number of transactions and add many more facilities and resources, all without adding head count,” he says. “And our IT department loves the system because we have had so very few issues with it over the years. Truly, we would be lost without ScheduALL now.”