Network Ten gets serious about its Web sites

The Ten Network is undertaking a massive overhaul of its digital strategy which has seen it go from one Web site to 15 in over a year.

A complete overhaul of its digital strategy has seen Network Ten release 15 Web sites in the past 18 months.

Previous to the formation of its digital media group in February last year, the Ten Web site was effectively a TV guide while the Web sites of the station's top TV shows such as Big Brother, Australian Idol and Rove were developed and housed as standalone entities by their respective production companies.

"Everyone managed their own sites," said Siva Ahilan, head of technology - digital media at Network Ten. "There wasn't a cohesive structure. And one of the issues from the users point of view was you'd have to log in to those sites from different IDs - there was no consistency with these all being a part of the Ten brand.

Along with the formation of its digital media group, the company relaunched its www.ten.com.au site early last year with an emphasis on video streaming, downloads, and creating communities surrounding its core TV brands.

From there it began to fold its key TV shows in to the Ten site - 15 so far and counting.

Under the new digital strategy Ten develops the sites in-house but the content management is carried out by either the production companies or its in-house staff, depending on the program.

After an evaluation process Ten decided on the RedDot content management system from Open Text. Ahilan said the CMS is a core part of its online platform. "Although we have used a RedDot partner to initially implement it, my idea was that we would eventually bring it in-house," Ahilan said.

After hiring a specialist RedDot developer for the initial phase, Ten then undertook a process of training up its junior developers so that they now perform all the site development for its TV shows.

Ahilan said turnaround and the cost benefits have been marked. But with the shows so different to one another with regards to look, feel and content requirements, it has brought up some coding challenges.

To deal with it the digital media team devised a method which they called Vanilla. Vanilla works with standard XHTML on the backend but uses "really sophisticated" CSS techniques to re skin the sites. "We can deliver these sites a lot quicker. So we are down to -- for a largish site -- 3-4 weeks for that build, test deploy phase."

Another feature is site flexibility. For example, Ten's AFL site uses RedDot's integration manager to ingest news feeds from Sportal. From there it is able to link that in with its video content from its Sports Tonight show. "So where we have got a news item on a specific story and we have got video content, we have actually been able to hook that all together in the CMS and publish that out."

The next phase of its digital strategy will see it overhaul its storage management system. At the moment the time to get content from on air to online is a couple of hours. "We want to reduce that to close to real time. That will happen in next few months," Ahilan said.

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