The maker and broadcaster of TV hits like Coronation Street, Downton Abbey and I’m A Celebrity is ITV, the U.K.’s largest and oldest commercial broadcaster. ITV is over 60 years old, has a weekly audience of more than 38 million people, and produces over 8,900 hours of original content annually for itself and for broadcasters globally.
Advertising generates £1.7 billion in revenue for ITV annually. Andrew Duncan, Principal Engineer of ITV, works with the Airtime Sales (ATS) team using technology to improve the management of this vital source of revenue. ‘Technology underpins what we do, and it must be able to work at scale’, he explains. ‘It must allow us to respond very quickly, especially as our business becomes more and more digital. And that means we need to use more technology and automation to support the operational side of things and augment our traditional human skills and capabilities.’
In alignment with how ITV relies on an end-to-end supply chain that is increasingly digital, the Airtime Sales (ATS) organisation recently completed the transition to a new software platform for managing advertising sales. Key to the success of this complex and challenging migration was full observability from New Relic, which is now a key element of how ATS is growing as a data-driven digital business.
Avoiding digital transformation drama
ITV had a five-year modernisation program for the ATS department, which has been challenging because of the broadcaster’s long history. The company is the amalgamation of 12 regional broadcasters, each of which had their own advertising sales teams, systems, and packages.
‘There’s a lot of legacy in the systems we use, and a great deal of complexity around how ads are still sold regionally’, says Duncan. ‘We’ve spent a great amount of time and effort in modernising, streamlining, and tackling all the technical debt. The end goal is ensuring we are set up for the future with more integrated advertising across broadcast and online, and being more reactive to what happens in the market.’
Duncan and his team decided on a digital transformation plan to migrate from Java-based applications running in on-premises servers, to a software management platform that utilises decomposed microservices running in the AWS public cloud.
Yet, even as the software was fully ready to launch, Duncan’s team faced end user resistance to the change-over. To resolve this, New Relic was chosen to help complete the most important stage on the digital transformation journey.
‘With some irony for a TV drama maker, there was the potential for the drama of the migration to overtake us’, he says. ‘Many people in ATS had visions of that £1.7 billon revenue being put at risk by technical problems as we moved from the old to the new. There was a real need to build trust, given that the original proof of concept was five years old, and the migration had been postponed before. This is where New Relic and its ability to allow us to instrument everything proved so crucial.’