Viacom18 tackled disruption in media sector.

As we step into the economy of attention, brands are intensifying strategies to gain a pie of viewer’s time. Viacom18 didn’t want to be left behind. Vishal Bhasin, SVP-Technology tapped into a plethora of digital initiatives that would transform the way content is created, consumed, stored and distributed.

In a conversation with ETCIO, Bhasin reveals details of the initiatives.

How did technology help Viacom18 respond to the disruption in the media sector?

Universal connectivity, exponential growth in mobility, drastic reduction in compute and storage cost has completely transformed not only the way content is consumed but also the entire life cycle of content creation, storage and distribution.

The core for any media company is content and its’ life cycle management. Digital disruption across consumption, production and acquisition in an otherwise traditional broadcast world has transformed the content lifecycle. Content viewership is now more personalized on a specific device with global reach. Our various initiatives revolve around digitizing the lifecycle, which also includes managing of complex content rights for the newly-generated consumer micro-segments; experimenting with blockchain-based micro-contracting solutions.

At Viacom18, we are responding to this disruption by reimagining business processes, investing in the next generation technologies, creating a data driven culture and significantly enhancing operational efficiency.

One of the key aspects of increasing operational efficiency has been the adoption of RPA across select functions. Additionally, for improving overall efficiency of the organization, we have enabled the digital workplace by adopting cloud-based collaboration and productivity.

Furthermore, in order to shorten our go-to-market timeline, we adopted a cloud-first, microservices-based architecture with customer-focused agile mode of delivery for application development, enabling incremental delivery to the needs of the business.

How do you utilize tech to understand user behavior and needs?

Consumer engagement across platforms ends up generating zillions of data points, which subsequently gets ingested and processed to understand changing consumer behavior and generate actionable insights. With both linear and digital data points along with social sentiments getting ingested on the big data platform, it is imperative for us to process the data efficiently for easy consumption and action.

This is achieved using our big data platform built on Microsoft Azure, wherein we have experimented with multiple upcoming technologies and found the best fit for unified data analytics platform in Databricks. Now, analysis and correlation of viewing pattern across broadcast and digital platforms in parallel has become seamless, providing right guidance for content curation.

How do you build a data-driven culture?

In order for the culture of the larger organization to change, it is imperative that data is democratized and made available to everyone in a form which makes sense to the individual and meets their specific requirements.

We set up detailed workshops with different stakeholders to understand the exact requirements from executives, business owners and analysts, operations team, and data scientists. After diligently understanding the ask, we curate the data models and generate customized dashboards for different user groups.

In addition to descriptive analytics, the data engineering pipeline and unified analytics layer also supports predictive analytics ensuing a data-driven, decision-making culture.

Provide insights into the security strategy that you have deployed at Viacom18.

The strategy in a nutshell is to identify, protect and monitor information assets.

Traditionally, the threat landscape was restricted to on-premise assets. However, with the advent of big data and cloud computing, the threat surface area has increased by many folds. This requires the strategy to have a multi-layer security on and around the data at rest/in motion along with cloud infrastructure ensuring that we maintain right levels of confidentiality, integrity and availability.

With the threat actors constantly evolving in their means, our approach has been to be more proactive towards upgrading our security footprint through innovation and next gen technologies with an eventual goal to adopt zero trust model.

One of the weakest links in security for any organization is users, hence there has been a conscious focus on user awareness and training. We have an ongoing internal communication program termed NetSmart which keeps updating users on safety and security practices while working online.

As a result of these efforts, we are now one of the very few organizations in the M&E industry to have benchmarked their practices against ISO 27001:2013, giving us assurance that our practices and processes are best in class.

How do you see your role evolving in such a disruptive environment?

The role of a technology leader is fast evolving from being a supporting partner to one enabling the top line. This transition requires a phased approach. Here at Viacom18, we have come up with a three-stage approach — support-enable-drive.

The Support phase is the trust building phase wherein we ensure that the business feels comfortable in reaching out to the technology team for solutions. In the Enable phase, technology team works jointly with business to co-create solutions for the business challenges. The Drive phase involves the technology team to proactively propose innovative solutions that will in turn leverage next-gen tools/platforms with potential to disrupt existing business and create new business models.

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