August 12, 2016 -

Data and the Power of DAM at Comedy Central

DAM at Comedy Central

by Kevin Gepford

Digital Asset Management at Comedy Central got its start as a grassroots initiative, and over the years had steadily grown in size and usefulness while never quite achieving institutional legitimacy.

One day I realized I was tired of explaining to our creative and business managers – every year – why investing in our Digital Asset Management system was so important. I needed to figure out how to present my case for DAM in a way that made sense to them.

I turned to storytelling

What inspired me was an experience I had at the Henry Stewart Digital Asset Management Conference last November, in Los Angeles. I sat in on a half-day seminar discussing “DAM Leadership – Achieving Growth and Establishing Leadership”, led jointly by experts David Lipsey and Graham Allan.

Among several topics they covered, David and Graham talked about obstacles within organizations that can hinder Digital Asset Management from thriving. DAM is important work, but leadership often don’t see the marvelous benefits. What they DO see, however, is how much it costs!

So that’s the DAM challenge: Explain how this endeavor helps the organization. Demonstrate the importance of maintaining control of the enterprise’s intellectual property, who the key users are, and how these users benefit. Success depends on us speaking the language of our managers, and showing in simple and graphical ways all the benefits that DAM can offer. Another tip: Use examples of the most popular assets to visually demonstrate the system’s effectiveness.

That was easy homework. Back at the office, I kept an eye on our activity logs for a while. After 6 months I harvested the data and ran some analytics to see what interesting insights I might find. A few surprises turned up; other findings reinforced my previous hunches and field observations.

Usage Patterns

Two of our big internal clients are the teams that orchestrate the delivery of Comedy Central’s content to digital platforms for comedy fans to view or download our shows. We generically refer to them as “DTO partners”. My team supports this work by creating graphics that appear next to each show’s title and description. And the DAM system is how we deliver everything to them. The work gets started with a JIRA ticket requesting 20 or 50 specific assets. When we fulfilled the request we’d tell our clients, “everything’s done — find it in the DAM!”

And that’s exactly what they would do. In one sitting, they’d grab everything they needed. The spikes in our usage logs revealed their very distinct patterns of behavior: binge downloading.

Creative users were the total opposite. These users tended to nibble and snack on our digital assets. Throughout the day or week they’d go to the site looking for something or other, browse around a bit, download a couple of things, and then vanish. The contrasts between these two groups are evidenced by the numbers: The daily average download count is 40.5, but the standard deviation is an astonishingly high 35.404.

Comedy Central - Funny Numbers 2

At Comedy Central, nobody works on weekends or holidays. Don’t believe me? The logs prove it! During the Jan-June period (26 weeks), there were 125 days in which at least one person used the DAM, out of a total of 182 days.

Our busiest day saw a whopping 500% spike above average, for a record 231 downloads. For that day, May 31, the logs revealed some unusual and interesting activity. Somebody downloaded 34 photos taken at a publicity stunt for “Moonbeam City”. Maybe someone in Marketing needed this? Another 31 assets were grabbed by a user who was searching the past 5 years of our Print Archive back catalog; my inner sleuth suspects that this person was getting ready to start a job search, and needed the material to update their portfolio. I have no way of identifying who it was, and I don’t care. Our DAM was made for this, too! Digital Platforms accounted for most of the remaining downloads.

The second busiest day was dramatically lower, with 158 downloads.

I noticed other patterns – such as on Jan. 15, when somebody downloaded every approved image from our photo shoot for season 2 of Broad City. What were they up to? Maybe they copied everything to the server so they could keep track of them the old-fashioned way? That would be kind of funny, in a painful sort of way.

Popularity Contest

My biggest surprise was over which image won the popularity contest. It was the silhouetted key art for Idiot Sitter (featuring show creator-stars Jillian Bell and Charlotte Newhouse). That show enjoyed a successful launch, which lead to renewal for the second season (currently in production). But nothing about this image stood out from the sea of other assets. I am still scratching my head over why it was so popular. But it’s the clear winner. Nothing else comes even close.

Here’s a sampling of some of the most popular assets, and the number of times they were downloaded during the 6-month sample period:

  • Idiot Sitter (“hero” image, silhouetted) – 62
  • South Park lineup – 24
  • Trevor Noah (hand on chin, silhouetted) – 22
  • Workaholics “Photocopier Prank” image – 21
  • Comedy Central one-line logo – 19
  • Broad City (silhouette) – 16
  • Workaholics “Rolling Dice” image – 15
  • Trevor Noah (standing, silhouetted) – 14
  • Comedy Central 2-line logo – 14
  • Broad City (standing pose, silhouetted) – 13
  • Broad City Logo – 12
  • Dave Chappelle (1920x1080 from Season 1) – 12
  • Logo for Daily Show with Trevor Noah – 12
  • Logo for Not Safe with Nikki Glaser – 11
  • Logo for Idiot Sitter – 10
  • Daniel Tosh (retouched) – 9
  • Daily Show correspondents (silhouetted) – 8

Comedy Central - Funny Numbers 3

Breakdown of download mix:
  • 5,305 Total Downloads
  • 40.5 Daily Average
  • 2,748 were downloaded only once in 6 months
  • 723 assets were downloaded at least twice
  • 39 assets were downloaded 10X or more in 6 months

Comedy Central - Funny Numbers 1

What insights did I discover?
  • Delivering our DTO art via the DAM system is working. It’s by far our largest collection (59%), as well as the most active (51%).
  • Designers love images that have already been silhouetted.
  • CC logos are in demand, but not as much as you’d think.
  • For popular and current shows, users desire multiple poses of the stars.
  • Comedy Central loves its vintage shows – The Chappelle Show ended its run a decade ago, but we’re still promoting it. As an example.
  • Assets that got only one hit in the 6-month period created a very long tail — accounting for more than half of the total downloads (52%). If you added together everything else, that was downloaded 2 or more times, that total (48%) couldn’t catch up.
  • On the other hand, when us Comedy Centralites do like something, we like it A LOT! Top downloads tended to be images of stars from current shows, plus show and network logos.

I decided to share a couple of stats with our Vice President of Design. The number was just too big to ignore. In toto, our DAM system eliminated 5,300 opportunities for interruption and distraction from our design team, in just 6 months. That averages 40.5 assets every working day.

I explained that many of those downloads were by people completely outside our team – each download was one less time these people might call and interrupt us to ask for something they needed. Also, a lot of the downloads were by insiders — our own creative people. There are two gains here: time saved in finding useful assets, and fewer distractions that come from from having to ask a coworker to track down an asset on one of our (yes, three!) active servers.

Comedy Central’s DAM Specs and Stats:

Software: Extensis Portfolio
Hardware: Windows Server 2012 R2
Number of Users: Unknown. Access is anonymous, and it’s open to anyone inside the secure corporate firewall.
Active Catalogs: 4
Asset Count:
Logos: 880 items
Images: 15,691 items
Print Archive: 4,473 items
Digital: 29,917 items
Total Assets: 50,961