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Blogpost by Sarah Geeroms

I leave well in time to make it to Österreichischer Rundfunk (ORF) at 9:00AM. The Austrian public broadcaster is located outside the city center, but luckily, public transport in Vienna is well-organized. My contact person Karl, who is a member of the Technical Direction department, welcomes me upon my arrival. We meet at the online & TV center, that has about 1900 employees (out of almost 4000 in total). The radio station, where Karl was working for 20 years, is located in the city center. Just like VRT, ORF is going through an architectural transformation. Within a few years, all of ORF services will be grouped on the same location. TV and Radio will then be subdivided per program.

ORF has two large TV channels and two interest channels (culture and sports). They do not have a children’s channel, as they find almost all of their content in Germany.

Within their own country, there’s almost no competition: ORF has a turnover of 1 billion €, that’s huge!

COBIT 5, the framework for ORF’s innovation strategy

Karl tells me that innovation is divided across different departments and coordinated by two people from the general direction department. Yet, it turns out that it is Karl in particular who tries to bring in innovation. Karl explains a lot about their innovation strategy and how they built it based on COBIT 5. The COBIT 5 framework is a business optimization and growth roadmap that inspires innovation and fuels business success (http://www.isaca.org/COBIT/focus/Pages/delivering-disruptive-innovation-using-the-cobit-5-framework.aspx). He shows me how their process focuses on both internal and external stakeholders, taking into account the general media landscape. It seems that innovation at ORF can theoretically be found at every level, although they also struggle with trying to reach everyone and make changes to the existing structures.

After this interesting debate, Karl guides me through the ORF buildings, where I notice that literally everyone knows Karl. He introduces me, amongst others, to ORF’s most innovative man named Patrick. Patrick has developed a compact 100 seconds newscast in a format suitable for online and smartphones. A total of 18 daily “ZIB” programmes bring viewers the latest news from Austria and the rest of the world. The latest addition is a format suitable for smartphones. This daily ZIB100 news broadcast is sent to more than 45,000 subscribers via WhatsApp, “Zeit im Bild” utilises the WhatsATool solution from atms: http://tv.orf.at/highlights/orf3/zib100_start104.html

Afterwards, Karl also shows me how they monitor social media, which happens in a meeting room with a simple camera with audio linked to Patrick’s computer for immediate recording of social media videos (without the need for extra people or systems).

WeXelerate, 9000 square meters of open innovation

After lunch, we drive to WeXelerate, where we will meet Vanessa. During our trip, Karl proves to be an excellent tour guide.

WeXelerate is a startup and  innovation hub that aims to connect startups and established corporates with each other: https://www.wexelerate.com/  They organize 2 batches a year that last 4 months and include 16 cooperate partners (including ORF) in 5 different verticles, of which media is one. They believe that the true added value for startups lies in receiving feedback from various project partners.

ORF pays WeXelerate a yearly sum for screening media startups from an average of 200 startups. This screening includes a financial background, etc. Their collaboration was established 1 year ago, after ORF itself had tried to enter into partnerships with startups but proved to be unsuccessful. Thanks to the current collaboration, the first implementation is nearly completed and there are two other successful projects up and running.

We discuss our models and whether a collaboration could be set up, taking into account the existing contract between ORF and WeXelerate.

On Saturday, I was able to explore Vienna, which is such a beautiful city to discover! It does surprise me that smoking is still allowed In Vienna. Even worse, it turns out that one of the largest current political parties has won purely for the sake of smoking in cafes and restaurants. Unbelievable, right?

Post-convergence radio

On Sunday, I speak at the post-convergence radio workshop, which is part of Radiodays Europe (https://www.radiodayseurope.com/ ). The workshop showcases different aspects of radio’s technological development, such as upcoming hybrid radio solutions.

I tell the audience about our VRT Sandbox model and why such a model may be relevant to other broadcasters. The responses were positive, and first contacts were made. This was a great workshop day with a splendid organization of MediaRoad colleague AER (http://www.aereurope.org/ ).

After some additional meetings and a nice dinner with VRT radio colleagues, my trip in beautiful Vienna ends. Home sweet home!

Sarah Geeroms works as Project leader at VRT Sandbox International, and leads MediaRoad’s Sandbox Hub helping media organisations in Europe to establish innovation incubators and to connect with start-ups.

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