Streaming Forum: Netflix and Partners Talk Digital Supply Chain

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Streaming Forum has begun in London, and in the opening day keynote Netflix and a variety of big name content partners offered digital supply chain lessons from the company’s U.K. and Nordic rollouts. Netflix presented a panel made up of its own people, as well as representatives from Sony, Warner Bros., Discovery, and more.

Streaming Forum is the new name of Streaming Media London, which has been rebranded and refocused, and now takes place in summer rather than late fall. The change looks like a good move, as a capacity crowd filled the keynote room to hear from Netflix.

Perhaps the biggest lesson in working with a high-traffic subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service, Netflix and its partners agreed, is to plan ahead. Keynote moderator Christopher Fetner, Netflix’s director of content partner operations and digital supply chain, likened it to the army’s “hurry up and wait” methods: getting contracts approved and signed can take a long time, but once those contracts are signed Netflix wants digital files and all related assets immediately. The only way to satisfy expectations, said Nick Nelson, the creative services manager for Netflix USA, is to work ahead of the curve and anticipate the launch date.

Working with online services has allowed Warner Bros. to take a proactive approach in harnessing foreign language versions, said Shelly Groves, Warner Bros. Entertainment’s executive director for distribution services. Noting that Netflix wants everything available and live by a target date, and that it’s a high-volume operation, Groves said that preparing far in advance is important. It’s different that working with traditional broadcasters, she added.

The struggle for traditional broadcasters isn’t simply working with SVOD companies, but doing anything new at scale, said Clayton Dutton, vice president of broadcast, post production, and VOD operations for Discovery Communications U.K. It’s important to unify the post production processes to make them fast and inexpensive. Online services need to pull their partners through the process, he said, to help traditional companies familiarize themselves with digital workflows and smooth out any problems.

Crystal Pham, vice president of client operations for Sony Pictures Entertainment

Looking to the pain points of working on the Netflix rollouts, Crystal Pham, vice president of client operations for Sony Picture Entertainment, U.S.A., noted that the high volume demanded that processes be automated as much as possible. Anything that takes away from the automation is a pain point, she said.

Panelists also addressed the need to deliver localized assets for multiple countries -- including accurate subtitles and artwork that emphasizes stars known in those countries – and the need to perform quality control on the full package of digital assets to ensure that all audio files synch up correctly.

Media companies are now experiencing growing pains in adapting to digital channels, dealing with faster schedules and greater needs that those of traditional broadcasters, but as the Netflix panel showed they’re catching up in a hurry.

Watch the full Netflix panel below.

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