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By Dennis Kneale
Tim Taylor must have data deluge on the brain. As head of broadcast and media IT at Sky in Britain, he oversees mission-critical infrastructure that is the lifeblood of the business: a rights-management system for acquiring, selling, scheduling, clearing, distributing, and replaying hours of programming beamed out by the direct-satellite giant to 6.5 million set-top boxes and millions of laptop, tablet, and smartphone screens.
"There are thousands of different permutations where we're allowed to show rights on what platform and on what service," Taylor says. Myriad "elemental rights" cover music, actors, directors, and more, while other rights dictate which shows can air on pay TV or linear TV, via satellite, online or cable, on demand or live, in which regions and territories and at what time of day, and for how many days and how many plays. "You can multiply all these things out to tens of thousands of combinations, actually."
Especially in the past decade, the challenges and pitfalls of rights management, a $600 billion-a-year business, have multiplied in complexity and risk like never before. Markets around the world have opened up for U.S. programming, and the Internet lets millions of people access thousands of programs on dozens of new platforms anywhere, anytime. A mundane chore has become one fraught, befuddling task.
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