In March 2014, SSA & Company, in partnership with Univision Communications Inc., hosted a group of operations leaders in the South Florida area for a discussion on Practicing Operational Excellence in the World of Broadcast Media. The roundtable featured Angel Garcia, Vice President of Operational Excellence of Univision. The discussion was moderated by John Rodgers, Senior Managing Director of SSA & Company.
Univision is where Hispanic families living the American dream connect with their culture. It is the fifth-largest network in the U.S., which averages 1.8 million adults ages 18-49 in broadcast prime time and serves 94 million American households. In July of last year, Univision became the #1 highest-rated television network nationally. Although it first catered only to Spanish- speaking Hispanic markets, Univision is expanding to produce content in English. This new programming is available through Fusion, a joint venture between Univision and ABC News. It targets Spanish-speaking viewers as well as second-generation Hispanic millennials seeking culturally relevant content in English. Univision’s major production center is in Doral, FL, where Univision’s Newsport building is the highest-tech building in the industry. As Univision expands, it asks and answers the question, “How do you practice operational excellence in the world of broadcast media?” The answer is a strategy that uses data-driven decision making to re-envision processes, people, technology, and data. More than ever, television networks must think creatively to take advantage of the newest digital channels. Through careful design and prioritization, Univision’s Operational Excellence team drives efficiencies in operations, streamlining and enabling creative and innovative processes.
Creative industries don’t usually apply Continuous Improvement, but Univision leads by example, recognizing that the pace of news, combined with new distribution channels, demands efficiency and well-planned capacity. For example, for a show scheduled to air at 6:30 PM, brainstorming happens at 9:00 AM. The group identifies 20 to 25 leads. These are parsed into 5 or 6 stories by the assignment desk, which dispatches camera crews and reporters around the world. At 3:00 PM, the production and editing teams have three hours to compile and present the information. In this environment, operational excellence ensures the company promptly delivers the best content for its audience without sacrificing the creative energy and spontaneity that Univision is known for. Univision’s Operational Excellence team is young, but it has already made great strides.
Continuous Improvement in a Creative Industry
Streamlining the Digital Content Creation Process
- Through a deep organizational and work study of the digital team within the Entertainment vertical, Univision’s operational excellence team pinpointed improvement opportunities. For example, Show teams performed similar work as the Entertainment Digital organization. Consolidating these teams eliminated redundancies and increased capacity. Further analysis revealed an opportunity to apply the classic 80/20 rule: digital content should feature Univision’s core strengths – entertainment and TV shows, not lifestyle and music. Collectively, these recommendations improved the quality and timeliness of content, enabled just-in-time responsiveness and yielded hard financial benefits.
Organizational Redesign: Consolidating Internal Services to Maximize Efficiency
- Within the editing and technical operations function, Univision’s Operational Excellence team uncovered overstaffing, siloed production workflows, bottlenecks, multiple handoffs and splintered information systems. In response, the team designed a new, consolidated shared services model and centralized information system. The shared services are comprised of three entities: format and digital editing (basic cuts), show and craft editing (creative editing requiring specialized skills), and library services (centralized media asset management system). This new organizational and information system design increased capacity and flexibility – providing each producer access to editors and content outside her/his personal domain – and enhanced efficiency.
Extracting Value from Technology and Data through Process Design
- Univision has the storage capacity to keep all its data in one place, but to maximize the efficiencies of technology, the Operational Excellence team designed the infrastructure for its information systems to ensure optimal data mapping, input and archiving. One media desk manages data storage at Univision, so that there is only one point of entry for data on Univision’s servers. It also enforces a universal file tagging system. This design of roles and processes, combined with Univision’s storage capacity, allows employees to access materials and collaborate easily.
- In the satellite room, a large DVR constantly monitors 42 channels. There, producers can acquire data from anywhere in the world at all times.
Driving Accountability with the Right Performance Metrics
- In television, success is defined by not allowing programming to “go dark” (lose its broadcast signal and give viewers a reason to change the channel). However, for Univision, that standard isn’t enough. That’s why Univision uses a specialized leadership and organizational structure to encourage accountability, allowing the operational excellence team to develop metrics to track and improve performance.
Designing a Workflow for a State-of-the-Art Facility and Innovative Product: Newsport/ Fusion
Fusion TV is Univision’s collaboration with ABC news to produce fresh programming that appeals to second-generation Hispanics in English. The Newsport building is the highest-tech studio in the industry, boasting 950 miles of cable, 850 tons of cooling capacity, 15 robotic cameras, and over a petabyte of online storage capacity (190 million MP3 tracks or 1,450 years of play time). Newsport isn’t just for show. Fusion is a new product that needs new process design, which in turn needs innovative facilities.
- Operating Model Design: Before launching Fusion, Univision ran into operational problems that would occur only in a bilingual company. If breaking news needs to air on both networks, should you send a Spanish-speaking reporter and an English-speaking one? It is more efficient to send one bilingual reporter, but the best Spanish-speaking reporters often aren’t fluent enough to report in English (and vice versa). These are the types of questions this new, innovative product forced Univision to answer. Fusion demanded new ways of thinking and, consequently, new ways of working.
- Organizational Design: Newsport organizes teams to match Fusion-Univision’s conceptual workflow design. At the assignment desk, one group collects and prioritizes daily news and dispatches field resources and equipment as needed. The media desk is the single central point of management for all media storage, where content is named and logged for future use. In the production control room, all feeds are sent to master control, where all of the programming is distributed across the United States.
- Workspace Design: Collaboration and focus are equally important. The facility’s floor design is open to encourage teamwork, but craft editors and others seeking quiet can use private workspaces as needed. Additionally, the broadcast studios were redesigned to maximize utilization and flexibility of the “stages” used for news, talk and variety shows. Each stage can flex to provide different “looks” without major moves, thus reducing the time and staff needed for production.