The EBU's IOI programme – Implementing Open Innovation – was welcomed by Norway's NRK for a two-day visit this week. Participants from ten different EBU Members had an opportunity to discover the many ways in which a spirit of innovation is embraced across the organization. NRK's Director General Thor Gjermund Eriksen believes innovation is crucial for NRK to fulfil its public service mandate. Referring to the challenges of the modern media landscape he said: “The Norwegian championship is cancelled, for ever; we are participating in the World Championship.”
A two-page summary report of the NRK visit, along with detailed notes, slides, links and photos, can be accessed by EBU Members via the IOI workspace.
The IOI programme aims to explore how EBU Members successfully manage the digital transformation. Participants on themed visits examine the structures and processes that make it possible to generate ideas, develop and test innovations, and eventually ensure a successful transfer into mainstream production. IOI brings to the forefront products and services that allow PSM organizations to better serve digital audiences.
Innovation at NRK has many ingredients. Three of the most important are audience insights, data, and an inventive and open approach to building new tools to solve new problems.
When it comes to content development, the starting point is the audience. The huge success of the youth web-first drama Skam, for example, began with in-depth interviews with teenaged girls and exhaustive study of their habits, hopes and dreams. Interviews with members of the target group strongly inform the NRK pitch development process, leading to a clear mission statement for each new programme.
Q&A session during the IOI themed visit to NRK, Norway, 29-30 May 2017.
Data about audiences and users, both qualitative and quantitative, comes into play in many areas for NRK. Analysis of website user data, along with the metadata associated with content, now feeds automated content recommendations for the online video player. This has resulted in a big increase in the number of unique titles from the catalogue that are recommended and viewed on the NRK site. Machine learning plays a part in finding patterns in the viewing data, and is also being used to analyse audio and video and automatically enhance the attached metadata.
Tools and inventiveness
Whether through large-scale projects like Origo, the "rubber bands and paper clips" of the NRKbeta team, or the many individual projects dotted throughout the organization, a spirit of inventiveness underpins innovation at NRK.
Origo, an in-house project at NRK, is a system to handle the entire production workflow: Upload, Find, Use, Edit, Publish, Archive. The data model at its heart is built on EBU standards. The team behind Origo aim to make it "automagical" – a system that simply works for the users, regardless of the platforms they're producing for.
NRKbeta is a five-person team (counting an inventor, a journalist, a photographer, and a developer among its members) that exists specifically to explore, test and support the implementation of new ideas. They help fellow staff to navigate the challenges thrown up by new technology and can be called in by production teams to build clever – and cheap – tools to solve problems. They also organize monthly hackdays that involve 120 developers within NRK, and soon external developers too.
Throughout NRK there are new ideas coming to fruition across a range of areas: solo-operated regional TV studios and solo-operated multi-camera OBs; a highly skilled drone camera team serving NRK and other broadcasters; a web-based on-screen graphics solution developed in-house; and many innovations related to the switch to IP-based live production, where the Media City Bergen facility will be a true pioneer among PSM organizations.
EBU Members who want to explore the subject of innovation in more depth are encouraged to join the IOI programme. The resources for the NRK visit, including a two-page summary report, and materials from other related events are available from the IOI Workspace.
The next IOI themed visit, to Red Bull Media House in Austria, will take place in the autumn. Dates will be announced soon.