Keeping track of a production schedule and knowing where the crew and kit are at any one time is no mean feat. But Xytech wants to put all that information on your smartphone so it’s instantly at your fingertips. CEO Keith Buckley explains all to Jenny Priestley.
Article originally appeared in TVB Europe on December 4, 2023
Despite the Hollywood strikes that impacted much of the second half of 2023, the demand for new TV series and films from viewers shows no sign of slowing. That means production companies, broadcasters, streamers, and filmmakers are on an almost constant treadmill of creating new content, and every project requires behind-the-scenes talent and technology, but keeping track of all that can often be a job in itself.
Traditionally, media operations teams have relied on everything from a spreadsheet to pen and paper. A recent survey of 150+ media and broadcast experts from around the world by Xytech Systems, including Marvel Studios, Netflix, and National Geographic, revealed that 72 per cent were using custom in-house solutions and spreadsheets to monitor where their talent and technology were being employed.
For Xytech CEO Keith Buckley, one of the biggest takeaways of the survey was that almost all of the respondents said they want to see some form of automation within their media operations process, and the majority of companies don’t have that automation.
“One of the main focuses of where we’re taking Xytech is the ability to provide the efficiencies that come from having a single tool to manage the end-to-end media operations of any business,” he explains. “So that statistic, and seeing just how inefficient companies are, and how little they are automating these processes, was a huge eye opener to us. Frankly, it informs a lot of the decisions that we’re making with our product development going forward, and it reinforces that fundamentally, we are on the right path.”
As part of that product development, Xytech introduced a mobile version of its media operations platform at IBC 2023. The slimmed-down version offers the most crucial features of the web platform, enabling production crews and creatives to work remotely while maintaining the ability to manage people, resources, and assets in an efficient manner.
Buckley says the decision to launch the mobile version of the platform has been driven by the explosion in remote working since the pandemic. “A lot of our customers have hundreds if not thousands of independent contractors or workers outside of their offices who work on productions and need the ability to schedule not only their time, which productions they’ll be on, and all of the information related to the workflow, but also they need the ability to schedule facilities and to understand where assets are both physical or digital.”
Buckley describes the new product as a response to the natural evolution of the industry but with the aim of making production more efficient and giving users the ability to have total visibility into all elements of their production. “I’ve been in this industry for most of my career really since I got out of university. This industry consistently shows us how inefficient workflows are,” he states. “We have super talented people, we have great technology, we create great content, but it gets done in a very, very inefficient way despite ourselves. The number of people that use Excel, Google Sheets or even post-it notes to schedule their hundreds of millions of dollars of stuff is crazy to me.”
The initial rollout of the platform is focusing on the industry’s biggest and most important commodity: people. “If you think through how a production goes, it starts with some sort of a service order and there’s a time-based scheduling that has to happen with that, and of course, it’s the people that have to be scheduled,” explains Buckley.
The team at Xytech began the platform’s development by ensuring it enables production crews to see who has requested their services, and they can choose whether to accept or modify the request. The media operations team also have visibility into all of the schedules of their workforce. “What we tried to show is just how efficient we can make the process of scheduling the people and assets within media operations,” Buckley says. “If you do that properly, if you can schedule your most important assets, then the natural extension is to continue to go into the product where we’re already handling all of the scheduling of facilities, digital assets, etc.”
The platform isn’t just aimed at those working in film or high-end TV. Buckley views it as being of use to a number of genres, including news and sport as well as post-production. “This isn’t just for television production or movie production,” he says. “There are so many other pieces of media that are being created that all companies use. We are completely modifying our user interface and our user experience for our customers. We see this as being used across all media operations teams in all types of media creation.”
Xytech is offering the mobile version as a SaaS product with no limit to logins per company. Instead, companies can acquire tiered access. “We have customers right now who have hundreds of users that are logging in on a daily basis for full scheduling of all of their facilities. There are no real limits to the media operations platform in terms of numbers of people that can be on it,” says Buckley.
Plans are in place to launch the platform as an app, which is expected to take place in early January 2024. “We are the industry standard for this, but we have a long way to go as an industry to continue to utilize what we’re doing,” says Buckley. “I think it’s a great opportunity to really start getting people to recognize the efficiencies to come.”