For something as specialized as distribution rights management software, there’s quite a bit of choice for buyers. Package capabilities can encompass just tracking rights availabilities and conflicts to managing the entire process, from acquisition to program delivery and the subsequent parceling out of merchandising rights. It all depends on what a distributor needs and, more likely, what it can afford. While not an exhaustive survey by any means, realscreen tracked down three of the more popular providers currently on the market to see what they have to offer. We also got current users to weigh in on the pluses and minuses of the respective systems.
Comet (Saturn Software, LA)
Current clients include: Decode Entertainment and ER/Classic Media
What it does: With its first iteration launched in 1998, Comet is an established RM solution. And if a distributor chooses to flex its process-management muscle, the system can cover the process from end to end, tracking series from the time they’re greenlit to eventual sales and materials delivery, including invoicing, royalty reporting, emailing orders and rectifying deal financials with producer royalties. However, says VP of rights management systems Elizabeth Pole, the system’s real value lies in its ability to extract rights availabilities and report them in a digestible way. She says installation takes between three and four weeks on average, depending on the state of the client’s current contracts and data. (It’s shorter if there’s digital data that’s transferable to Comet, longer if data has to be input manually.) In terms of upkeep, says Pole, one dedicated contracts administrator should be able to maintain the database until a company gets ‘massive.’ Finally, Saturn is just releasing an upgrade to make it easier for users to revamp rights definitions internally.
Cost: US$5,000 per edit user, $500 per read-only user, but volume discounts are available.
Annual maintenance: $2,000 per edit user, $200 per read-only user.
+ ‘The price,’ says Decode’s director of sales, Josh Scherba. ‘We couldn’t see the justification for a larger, more expensive system as we only use the rights management portion.’
- ‘Not being able to input new parameters by ourselves,’ says Scherba. (That is likely changing this year, with a software update.)
Jaguar (Jaguar Consulting, Pasadena)
Current clients include: Chorion, Corus, DIC and HIT
What it does: Jaguar has been on the market for upwards of 20 years and was invented primarily to handle the needs of licensors tracking merchandising rights. Over the years it has morphed to handle both TV and film distribution and L&M. The core of the system, says Adam Lefkowitz, VP of sales and consulting services, is the contract administration module, but the complete system is capable of tracking rights and handling back-end financial administration. Jaguar has a reputation for being very powerful and almost inexhaustible in the amount of data it can process and store. In fact, says Lefkowitz, it can track rights down to a single image in a given episode, and one of its larger users has a library that houses some 20,000 titles that have generated more than 50,000 contracts. Because of its depth and corresponding expense, Jaguar isn’t often a candidate for smaller buyers. But Lefkowitz says a new product leasing scheme and the ability to pick modules is making Jaguar more affordable.
Cost: Low six-figures for a system to meet the needs of a mid-sized company; monthly leasing fees start at $2,000 depending on lease term, number of users and module combination.
Annual maintenance: Twenty percent of the perpetual license fee.
+ ‘Jaguar covers a wide spectrum, putting payables, receivables and rights management into one package. I’ve been dealing with it since 1998 and I think it’s the best out there,’ says Valerie Campbell, contract and rights manager at Cookie Jar Entertainment in Toronto.
+ All of the data in Jaguar can be downloaded into Excel, so you have flexibility in designing a non-standard report. + ‘It has an incredible functionality and can take as much information as you want to give it,’ says Corus Entertainment’s Dale Hancocks.
- ‘On the financial side, a number of things need to be cleared up. We’re not able to track the royalties we have to pay out to coproduction partners, for example,’ notes Campbell.
- It’s a very complex system; the learning curve is pretty steep and it requires a fair bit of training.
- ‘It’s not an easy system to work with,’ adds another exec. ‘It’s not user-friendly or intuitive; it’s really a learned system.’
Rights Tracker (London)
Current clients include: National Geographic and Parthenon Entertainment
What it does: Rights Tracker is a relative newcomer on the scene, conceived just four years ago. Unlike Comet or Jaguar, it’s hosted on the Web, making system updates and fixes almost instantaneous. MD Ross Bently says he got the idea while working in TV sales at Granada in the 1990s. He used to work with the older systems and found that awkward interfaces discouraged users, leaving a lot of gaps in the data available for sales forecasting. To that end, he says, the system was developed from an industry perspective and Microsoft is a field-managed partner, so his team has spent a lot of time integrating Rights Tracker architecture with current MS programs, including its Dynamics accounting software. So Rights Tracker concentrates on rights management for both distribution and L&M. It’s also modular, so users can pick what they need, but the full system will do everything from tracking rights and managing coproduction agreements to handling materials shipments and inventory, including screeners and property collateral, such as series bibles and style guides. In terms of getting it up and running, Bently says the express version can have three to four users online the next day, but typical implementation takes two to three weeks, depending on the state of the data.
Cost: Between $20,000 and $40,000 for three users and up to $100,000 for a medium-sized company with roughly 20 users. In 2009, Rights Tracker plans to launch an annual subscription service to make it even more affordable for smaller producers.
Annual maintenance: Twenty percent of initial license fee.
+ ‘Rights Tracker is compatible with our new accounting system MS Dynamics, which is hugely important for us,’ says Target Entertainment director of finance Gavin Reid.