BBC signs Siemens for £100m archiving project

The BBC has contracted Siemens IT Solutions and Services (SIS) to develop and manage its Digital Media Initiative (DMI) technology project, in what it claims is an industry first.


The BBC has contracted Siemens IT Solutions and Services (SIS) to develop and manage its Digital Media Initiative (DMI) technology project, in what it claims is an industry first.

Under the deal, Siemens will work with BBC to architect a multi-platform digital system. The value of the deal has not been disclosed but Ovum analysts estimate it to be in the £100 million range.

As the prime integrator, Siemens will head up the integration of a combination of industry-standard technology offerings from Artesia, Cinegy, Marquis, Rhozet and Signiant to deliver the DMI platform.

BBC described DMI as a complex project "designed to prepare the Corporation for an on-demand, multiplatform digital environment". The behind-the-scenes project would overcome BBC's content silos to create a single digital repository of information for use on multiple platforms.

Amongst its objectives, the DMI platform will support any content that BBC broadcasts through any medium, including web, broadband, analogue or digital terrestrial TV and mobile phone. "All content will be captured, edited, finished and archived using file-based systems and made available to operators at their desktop PC," the BBC explained.

The DMI system will include: a digital library for management of all content and content rights; a work-in-progress production system; a collaborative multiplatform production system; the rollout of tapeless production processes; developing a digital archive – both for use during production and a long term archive; metadata infrastructure

In March 2007, BBC signed a partnership with IBM to a new video search service that would provide support for content distribution and rights management technology.

The BBC is in the midst of a project to from tape to a file-based digital production workflow using Linux. The goal is to reduce the time consuming activities relating to the handling of tapes and allow more time to be spent on creative, editorial tasks.

Siemens has been BBC's prime technology supplier since 2004, when the two organisations signed a ten-year £2bn Technology Framework Contract (TFC) that saw some 1,440 BBC Technology staff transferred to Siemens Business Services. In 2007, the BBC set up a technology partnership board to monitor the outsourcer.

The move followed a report by MPs that revealed 60% of the key technology projects in the deal's first year suffered delays or went over budget.

Ovum senior analyst Cornelia Wels-Maug commented: "Since [2004] SIS has further built up its expertise in the media/entertainment field, particularly in the UK, where it had successively secured several mid-sized outsourcing deals with different parts of the BBC. Only last year BBC Scotland's digital broadcasting centre went online, with SIS responsible for the implementation of the entire infrastructure and broadcasting technology."

"As broadcasters and TV stations prepare for the digitalisation of their content there will be more contracts of this kind coming up globally. We are sure to see SIS and IBM, among others, bidding."

Wels-Maug added this contract must be a welcome win for Siemens, "given SIS' recent concerns in the UK caused by the premature cancellation of its contract with the UK Department for Work and Pensions in March, which was subsequently followed by a change in UK leadership".

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