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Lifetime Gets Handle on Rights

Jan 12, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Lifetime will implement a rights management system this month to better manage its contracts.
Rights management has become increasingly vital in the new digital world, where contracts are more complex and content is shown across multiple new platforms such as the Internet, video-on-demand and DVD.
With so many venues, Lifetime wants to make sure it is getting the maximum value out of its contracts. “If I have a program that expires next month, but I have three more airings, I want to know so I can utilize them,” said Richard Zehner, project manager at Lifetime.
The new system from RSG Systems will enable Lifetime to better track its contracts since it is designed to manage a deal from acquisition or production through to play-out.
Over the next few months, Lifetime will roll out the system to its legal, programming and finance departments, with some other departments to gain limited access later.
Managing contracts electronically across a shared database is much easier than sifting through Word files to extract the important rights information, Mr. Zehner said. Lifetime and RSG developed a sort of “shorthand notation” so specific rights information can be easily queried, searched and found, he said.
“If you wanted to answer a simple question like `Can we air this show with a Spanish track on Lifetime Movie Network?’ or `Show me all the content where I can do that,’ the system [could pull that data],” he said.
Every new contract will be part of the system, and some of the most important existing contracts that haven’t yet expired also have been entered into the system.
Lifetime will be the first user of the system, but RSG said it is talking to other cable and broadcast networks about implementing it. Content companies want to know and leverage the full value of what they own, much as HBO has done with DVD sales and syndication, said Mukesh Sehgal, CEO and president, RSG Systems. “You want to make sure you are exploiting your rights to the maximum in the timeframe in which you have them,” said Jerry Cooper, chairman for the RSG board of advisers.
Lifetime considered developing both a digital asset management system and a rights system but decided that knowing how and where to use its content was the first priority, said Gwynne McConkey, senior VP, operations, information systems and technology. A digital asset management system is more costly, but she would not reveal how much Lifetime spent on the RSG system.
Still, the RSG system will serve as the cornerstone for a digital asset management system at Lifetime, she said.
Mr. Zehner said digital asset management tools still need to deal with the technical issues of formats and standards and making sure video servers of one type can speak to editing systems of another, for instance.