A new report released by Variety’s Intelligence Platform is shining the spotlight on an often overlooked yet essential aspect of the entertainment industry – rights clearance – and the urgent need for technical innovation in this space.
Rights Clearance for Film & TV: Embracing technology to fuel clearance’s impact on profitability and business outlook is written by media and tech general counsel Joy R. Butler, who has over two decades of experience in copyright and licensing law and conducted over 40 in-depth interviews with clearance professionals.
The report comes a year after the release of Synchtank’s own publication on the subject, Communication Breakdown, which explores the “fiendish mass of complexities” in music rights clearance specifically and explores the technology solutions addressing these.
Echoing our own findings on the topic (though covering more than just music), the report finds that rights clearance “overwhelmingly relies on outdated, inefficient systems that require repetitive and potentially error-introducing manual work.”
Despite the crucial role of rights clearance and the risks at stake – including whether or not a production can be completed at all – there is a startling lack of technical adoption resulting in costly inefficiencies.
According to Variety’s analysis, on average 20% to 33% of tasks performed manually by rights clearance professionals could be automated with technology that’s available now. Meanwhile, manual work accounts for up to $37,000 in worker costs per year per clearance professional.
“On average 20% to 33% of tasks performed manually by rights clearance professionals could be automated with technology that’s available now.”
Joy R. Butler, Variety
These inefficiencies – as the report explains – will only increase along with higher demands placed on clearance professionals and increasing industry complexities as more content is licensed and distributed across more platforms and territories.
Add current media dynamics to the equation and the need for greater efficiency becomes all the more apparent. “With increased content production, wider distribution and budget tightening, the manual, static approach to rights clearance is unsustainable,” the report states.
Thankfully, as Variety outlines, there are technologies – both existing and emerging – available today that have the potential to transform these workflows including both SaaS platforms and proprietary, in-house systems. The next big challenge, of course, is getting the industry to actually implement these.
Another key step towards efficiency is integration. The report warns against siloing rights clearance operations and extolls the benefits of proper communication and information sharing between creative and other operational functions. “The best digital tools facilitate communication and workflow between these groups,” it says.
This aligns with one of the key takeaways of our own report, which outlines the risks and inefficiencies associated with a lack of centralization and calls for more integration of interoperable systems to streamline clearance workflows.
In fact, we recently announced our partnership with Trevanna Tracks, one of one of the music clearance solutions featured in Variety’s report, to deliver a new level of industry collaboration and make the baton pass from creative to clearance, licensing and royalty reporting a seamless, efficient process with unparalleled accuracy.
So, what’s next for rights clearance and its digital transformation?
Despite barriers to technology adoption outlined in the report including cost and inertia, a new breed of professionals who expect innovative systems and automated methods could be pivotal in driving innovation forward. “Overcoming inertia is where digital natives in the workforce might push rights clearance into tech adoption,” it explains.
As post-strike Hollywood recalibrates, productions reignite, and studios look to reduce costs and drive profits, could the “unsung hero” of film and TV finally take center stage?