By Roger Franklin, CEO, Crystal
In 2014, viewers in the UK were gathered with friends and family to watch what is arguably the biggest event in the footballing calendar – the World Cup. It was England versus USA and everyone was anxious to see who would reign supreme, but for the UK viewers the match will be remembered not for the action on the pitch but for the technical fault that caused many to miss the opening goal of the match. A commercial was screened in error while the goal was being scored!
ITV blamed the technical hitch on an automated system for screening advertisements and while it wasn’t the end of the world, it did leave the UK broadcaster dealing with more than 1,000 complaints and a barrage of Twitter comments from celebrities, all in outrage.
The words ‘technical hitch’ are used to describe a multitude of errors, but upon further investigation one or more people may, in fact, be to blame. After all, automated systems only do what we tell them to do, right?
Can we prevent this sort of thing from happening again? I’m sure that the person or people responsible for this particular mistake have learned their lesson, but the question should be more general. How can we, as an organization and as an industry, best use those incidents to avoid making the same mistakes in the future? With better systems and more automation we are trying to take the ‘human’ out of human error, but ultimately humans have to tell systems what to do. The answer must be in the prescribed processes and training.
In a game of football, or indeed any sport, the players and managers have the opportunity to sit down after the game and analyze what went wrong or what went right. With many cameras filming, they can look at every tackle in great detail to help improve their performance for the next game.
Why should that sort of in-depth analysis be limited to the players on the field? Wouldn’t it be great if the next generation, or even the current generation of system operators could look back at the game from a broadcaster’s point of view and identify any mistakes instantly?
Using video to manage video is easily achievable and more broadcasters should take the opportunity to record what is happening in their systems. This type of functionality not only improves the customer experience, but is also used for tasks such as training employees and managing compliance, as well as performing post-mortems when something goes wrong.
Using video to enhance training is commonplace in most establishments, from a hotel’s health and safety videos, to demonstrating what not to do. We have all, at some point in our lives, sat through a training video. Most of us use video to absorb a whole host of information. In fact, according to the Brandon Hall Group, as many as 95% of companies use at least some video for learning. This makes a lot of sense in a world where online video accounts for 50% of all mobile traffic and 78% of people watch videos online every week. In fact, according to Nielson, video is the most popular content consumed globally. Many organizations record conversations with its customers to analyse and improve customer care.
Video is a great alternative to hard-copy training guides and may, in fact, be more effective for visual learners. According to an article in Elearning Industry, studies show that humans only retain 10% of heard information after 3 days, compared to 65% when you add visuals. Video also enables you to demonstrate real-world scenarios in a way not possible with other training methods.
It is an obvious evolution to use system recording as an example of what to do – showing the correct procedure for inserting an advertisement, for example, or ensuring the right version of a piece of content is distributed to the right channel.
It also makes sense to use recordings to show what not to do, getting trainees to spot the error using actual footage when a mistake was made. Of course, training should never be just limited to the new intakes and should be a continuous, ongoing process, especially with new processes and regulations coming into force. Naturally, when it comes to the broadcast industry, your employees are already clearly passionate about video. Why not train them using the same method?
Regulations are everywhere and constantly changing. They are an important part of what we all do. In fact, for the most part, regulations are there to help avoid costly mistakes and to ensure that systems work together. Take for example, the SCTE-35 standard that relates to digital program insertion in broadcasts. Broadcasters can no longer just insert metadata; it now needs to be handled in a specific way to adhere to the standard. In addition to training on the standard itself, reviewing system recordings and conducting regular checks of those recordings will help ensure everything is functioning properly and that the system is compliant with regulations, such as SCTE-35, as well as countless others.
And remember – compliance also pertains to internal systems and practices. If a broadcaster receives a complaint, those regular compliance checks will be a useful starting place, enabling them to pin-point what went wrong. By re-visiting those recordings, broadcasters can check specifics around a complaint, for example whether or not an advertisement was inserted in the correct place or correct region. If a mistake was made, the broadcaster can then take the necessary actions to resolve the complaint with the customer. But if on the contrary, the fault lies somewhere else, the recording would serve as important proof that everything was done correctly.
Performing the post mortem
The ability to look back and analyze past events or to learn from others is what leads to improvement. We instinctively want to learn and improve. Recording can be used to avoid mistakes reoccurring or, as discussed above, for training others. In some cases they can be used to de-escalate issues. By reviewing recordings and performing careful post-mortems, we can determine appropriate actions and change procedures where necessary, in order to avoid repeat offences.
We know how useful this tool would be in the broadcast world. The Network Management System is already recording content and user commands, so performing such a post-mortem at any stage will actually be relatively straightforward. Not to mention, the operator’s memory about what they did isn’t always going to be totally accurate, in the same way a call center operator won’t remember every conversation they had in perfect detail. Reviewing these recordings will help the team decide what can be done differently, or in an automated manner, to avoid the same issues occurring in the future.
Embracing Video’s Alternative Values
Video is everywhere and to broadcasters, video is everything. Why not harness its power for things other than entertainment? Managing compliance, training employees, and performing post-mortems call for reliable, on-call techniques and video is the obvious solution.
 Brandon Hall Group – www.brandonhall.com/blogs/95-of-companies-use-video-for-learning/
 Elearning Industry – elearningindustry.com/video-best-medium-microlearning
About Roger Franklin
Roger Franklin is the President and CEO of Crystal Solutions. Crystal Solutions simplifies the operation of complex video, satellite, and data networks. Mr. Franklin’s unique background as both a software engineer and a business owner drives Crystal’s use of leading edge technology to solve real world business problems. Roger specializes in identifying operational inefficiencies and designing intuitive, responsive, and reliable solutions to correct and capitalize on these opportunities. He has been involved with Crystal since its founding in 1986 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Since early 2009, Roger has focused on ways to mitigate and prevent
RF Interference, which includes chairing the IRG Carrier ID working group and developing a Carrier ID Detection System. Crystal’s roster of customers includes News Corp/FOX, Time Warner/HBO/CNN, Disney/ESPN/ABC, CBS, NBCU, Discovery, PBS, Starz, Viacom, Lockheed, Intelsat General.