Independent Television News (ITN) Overhauls Line Scheduling Workflow With ScheduLINK
Independent Television News (ITN) is among the world’s leading multimedia content providers, producing news, entertainment, and factual programming across a range of platforms from television to mobile and online delivery.
Over its 55-year history, ITN also has become the UK’s largest supplier of independent broadcast news. The company delivers world-class news coverage for ITV1 and Channel 4, its two core customers, and provides a variety of other news, entertainment, lifestyle, and documentary and archival content to broadcasters, production companies, mobile operators, and multiplatform media outlets reaching around the world. Based in Central London, ITN has bureaux and sales offices in New York, Washington, Beijing, Brussels, Paris, Sydney, Bangkok, Johannesburg, and Tokyo.
For nearly a decade, ITN used a custom software solution written specifically for the company, to manage lines in and out scheduling for news production. By 2009, however, the years of use and the continued evolution of ITN’s business caused the scheduling system to show its age. Of immediate concern for ITN was the system’s declining reliability, which had become a threat to the company’s business and its consistency of service. Furthermore, the proprietary, stand-alone design of the scheduling software made it difficult to integrate with other systems, both new and existing, and thus limited ITN in establishing a more efficient scheduling model, and in turn, more competitive news production services.
Faced with the increasing challenge of maintaining its legacy scheduling software, ITN sought expert advice and guidance in identifying new technologies that could be implemented to streamline the company’s workflows. After an extensive examination of available solutions, ITN’s consultant recommended either a new custom solution or ScheduALL’s Enterprise Resource Management (ERM) software. ITN provided ScheduALL with a requirement specification, and ScheduALL responded with a complete solution in which its robust ScheduLINK transmission management and optimization software simplifies management and speeds execution of all lines bookings in and out of master control for ITN news operations.
Upon selection, the first and most important phase of the ScheduLINK installation at ITN addressed bookings, as this fundamental aspect of the company’s operations required instant attention. As an off-the-shelf solution for resource scheduling, ScheduLINK provided the speed of implementation necessary to ensure the continuity of ITN’s ongoing news production operations. The company used an internal staff member to configure the system, gaining in-house expertise that reduced training time and in the future will enable self-sufficient adaptation of the software to meet changing business and client needs.
The second phase of the ScheduLINK installation, which will be completed once master control scheduling had been tested, taken online, and implemented in day-to-day use, extends the reach of the software to include control and scheduling for ITN’s fleet of satellite uplink trucks.
“ScheduLINK allowed us to replace an aging line plan system with a flexible, reliable solution that quickly met our immediate specifications and, going forward, provides a robust foundation for further streamlining of our operations,” said Malcolm Smith, head of newsgathering operations at ITN. “As we continue to expand our use of ScheduALL solutions, we expect that consolidated management of our resources through ScheduLINK will help us realise a significant improvement in time and cost savings.”
Every day the ITN newsrooms gather news footage from all around the world, and its operations necessitate the request of feeds from other stations, uplink trucks, and a variety of other sources, both internal and abroad. ScheduLINK enables ITN staff to expedite the accelerated, accurate bookings that are so critical in the fast-paced news production environment.
More than 200 requests may be made on any given day, and each of these is logged into ScheduLINK, which in turn guides the control room operations engineers who coordinate and bring in those feeds. In streamlining critical processes and providing real-time feed status, the ScheduLINK software saves ITN staff valuable time and expenses by providing an extensive resource list that reduces the data entry required, simplifies planning, and prevents costly bookings conflicts. The software also enables bookings staff to capture more information about each job and, in turn, to build up the company’s database in response to new or different types of business.
Financial staff at ITN use ScheduLINK to access real-time cost data associated with lines bookings. The software’s up-to-date cost data and reporting capabilities allow users to track costs across different customers. As the company continues to expand its use of the system, ScheduLINK’s invoicing tool will provide for convenient reporting and billing for feeds booked. Once the first two phases in ITN’s ScheduLINK installation have been completed, the company also will have the option of opening the software up to vendors to enable even faster, more direct bookings of feeds and related services.
In increasing overall efficiency across the news environment, ITN takes full advantage ScheduLINK’s cross-departmental management tools. Equipped with the current status of all lines scheduled to enter or leave the facility, ScheduLINK allows journalists located anywhere in the facility to find out when requested content is scheduled to arrive and to check its real-time status. In addition to improving awareness of available media for production, this improvement in the workflow eases the burden on control room staff and administrators, who no longer need manage or guide this process.
Among ITN’s options for expanding the utility of ScheduLINK is the management of personnel operating the satellite trucks that bring in feeds. And, as ITN extends its use of ScheduLINK, the software’s ability to tie into ScheduALL implementations at vendor sites offers the opportunity to realize greater value through further simplification of resource scheduling for satellite trucks and other equipment.
The first phase in ITN’s ScheduLINK implementation was driven by the need to replace an existing legacy line-plan system that was unsupported. Following this first phase of successful implementation for lines booking, the company will extend its ScheduLINK system to accommodate scheduling for satellite trucks and microwave vehicles and personnel. ITN also plans to further consolidate workflows and integrate ScheduALL solutions with other internal systems, such as its Avid® server system to facilitate direct recordings, and possibly to connect the software with its vendors’ ScheduALL systems, bringing even greater efficiency and value to the acquisition and allocation of external resources.
“Our decision to use ScheduLINK was the direct result of extensive research into how we could apply new technology to streamline our workflows, and we’ve been very happy with how smoothly we were able to launch the system,” added Smith. “We knew the specifications we’d made for the system, and we got just what we expected. Though a phased expansion of ScheduLINK at ITN, we anticipate seeing additional advances in our operational awareness, efficiency, and productivity.”
“As we continue to expand our use of ScheduALL solutions, we expect that consolidated management of our resources through ScheduLINK will help us realise a significant improvement in time and cost savings.”