How ITV is leveraging data to transform broadcasting

How ITV is leveraging data to transform broadcasting

Placing data at the heart of the decision-making process is key to operating with a robust data strategy and delivering positive business outcomes. Clémence Burnichon, Director of Data Innovation, ITV, discusses the importance the UK broadcaster places on gathering value from data to transform its services and improve the viewer experience, as well as how tools like Machine Learning enable analysis of customer behaviour and unlock business value.

Can you tell us about your role and the scope of your responsibility at ITV?

I am currently the Director of Data Innovation at ITV after joining the company from Depop in January 2021. Any technology at ITV that is underpinned by data, or needs data to function, falls under my remit. At ITV, data strategy covers a wider area of the organisation than you would typically expect, cutting across all business areas including marketing, advertising and viewer/product. It also covers finance, HR and our studios. We’re still at the start of our journey with data, so some business domains are not yet being explored, but we have big plans for the future and they are part of our roadmap moving forward.

How do you ensure you keep the largest commercial broadcaster in the UK operational and how does the use of data play a part in this?

Data is an enormous part of the Digital Transformation process happening at ITV at the moment. Our overall strategy is to be more than just TV, but to be a digitally-led media and entertainment company that delivers brilliant content to audiences whenever, wherever and however they choose. Data is part of our DNA and we will leverage it to transform broadcasting and achieve the best possible experience for our users, all while supporting and growing our studio business.

What strategic initiatives do you have in place when it comes to data management?

ITV has a set of principles in place when it comes to security, governance and compliance. Our data management approach is by default and built-in not bolted-on, which means everything we build and everything we do, we look at through multiple different lenses and perspectives with data at the heart of our decision-making. We examine the value for the business – as well as the technology and the governance attached to it – so that we are enabled to make the best decisions about how to move forward, considering every possible angle and leaving no stone unturned.  

How do you use smart technology tools like Machine Learning to analyse customer behaviour and how does this offer business advantages?

Our data strategy is both value-based and outcome-based. We look at fulfilling business needs by partnering with other areas of the organisation and looking at the entire process from end-to-end, including the ‘last mile’ activities that make our insights actionable for others in the business. Tools like ML, as one example, are used to create value for the business in any way possible. This value can be added in the form of propensity models in marketing, targeting models in advertising, segmentations, recommendation engines and more. The idea is to leverage the right tools and technologies and identify the correct approach to reach a desired outcome and realise the value. Technology is more a means to an end. What we are really concerned about is what value we can gather from data and how that can be used to transform our services and deliver a great experience for viewers.

How does the fast-moving world of entertainment influence your ability to manage data across the organisation? 

It’s not easy! The world of entertainment moves quickly and is relatively seasonal, so a good amount of planning is required to manage data across the company. Depending on the season, we might be focused on one business domain over another and ensuring that particular area is realising its full potential when it comes to data innovation. For example, you have a set of episodes of a particular programme in the summer and you only have that amount of time to play with it to determine what data insights can be leveraged. The industry moves very quickly, so it really depends on the time of year. Planning ahead is important to ensure that we have a birds-eye view of potential opportunities to gather data. We work with other areas of the business to determine what their plans are, such as marketing campaigns and big upcoming announcements, so we can adapt and avoid missing any opportunities. 

What advice would you offer other women in the industry who aspire to be in a position such as yours?

Technology and data are still very much male-dominated fields, but I can see more and more women choosing this career path which is uplifting to see. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but my general advice for women aspiring to enter the tech industry is to be bold, make mistakes and learn from them. It’s also important to hire the right people to complete your skillset and be transparent with them when it comes to expectations. We’re all human, so we don’t always have the answer, and that’s OK.

Women in leadership roles in the tech industry have to be seen by their colleagues and speak up even when it’s not easy. Remember, you’re not just doing it for yourself. You are making your voice heard for the 12-year-old girl who is learning Python and aspires to enter into a similar role one day. Visibility is important. As the saying goes: ‘If you can see it, you can be it’.

Are there any particular challenges you’ve faced as a woman in the IT space and if so, how did you overcome them?

I have been relatively lucky in my career to not have massive challenges to overcome, but I think all women in tech share a similar story of remembering being in a meeting where a vendor comes in and speaks only to the men before discovering that you, the woman in the room, is actually the decision-maker. The old ‘boys’ club’ still exists and it’s certainly hard to get rid of, but there has definitely been a greater push towards diversity and inclusion initiatives in recent years.

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet for solving some of these systemic issues, but for me it’s always been about delivering what’s expected of me in my role, being a voice in the industry and creating a diverse workforce and an environment where gender discrimination is never acceptable. 

Moving forward, how will the use of data enable you to achieve Digital Transformation?

We have a lot of exciting plans for ITV in 2022. The way we approach our data platform – also known as data mesh development – is somewhat new in the industry and it comes with lots of platform automations. In terms of ML, we have lots of information around personalisation for our audiences, and in the longer term we will have a lot of rich content. There are a great deal of possibilities around computer vision and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and also some really interesting developments in optimisation on the horizon. 

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