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Transforming the viewer experience for millions


A fully functional data platform within weeks


Marketing campaign planning from months to minutes


Compliance with strict regulations and privacy requirements


“Using the Databricks Data Intelligence Platform, we were able to create a self-serving data platform with Data Mesh at the core of the architecture. Databricks not only provided benefits from a data engineering perspective, but also offered strong security, governance, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and analytics capabilities. Databricks is the right fit for our needs.”

— Clemence Burnichon, Director of Data Innovation, ITV

Over the past decade, the broadcast television industry has undergone significant changes, largely due to the rise of streaming services. These changes have led to shifting viewer expectations, with people now expecting to be able to access a wide range of high-quality programming at any time and on any device. ITV is a British public broadcast television network that has been in operation since 1955. It offers a range of programming through its platform, both live and recorded, and produces, commissions and sells television content. The company’s goal is to be a digitally led media and entertainment broadcaster that provides high-quality content to audiences on their terms. To support this strategy and improve the user experience, ITV launched a new data strategy two years ago. As part of this effort, the company decided to use the Databricks Data Intelligence Platform.

Empowering digital transformation with the lakehouse

With nearly 40 million viewers, ITV generates vast amounts of content data each day. The company formerly relied on multiple legacy data platforms, which resulted in data fragmentation. Its data team was similarly fragmented across marketing, commercial advertising and product experience with its own technology stack. When the company launched its new digital strategy, it became clear it would need to modernize its platform and undergo a massive digital transformation with data at the core. ITV sought a platform that would allow it to consolidate its data sources and use analytics, machine learning, rule-based algorithms, and other tools to understand viewer expectations and behavior and improve the user experience.

In addition to its role as a broadcast television network, ITV is also an advertising-driven business. Therefore, the company wanted to use data to ensure that advertisers were targeting the most appropriate audiences. Finally, ITV sought to use data to better understand and optimize its own digital content, as well as foster data-driven decision-making across the enterprise. It was important for the company to maintain strict data compliance and security measures as it pursued these goals.

To meet these goals, ITV consolidated on AWS and chose the Databricks Data Intelligence Platform as its data platform. "Databricks had no real competitor compared to every other platform we looked at," says Clemence Burnichon, Director of Data Innovation at ITV. "Not only from an engineering standpoint, but also because of security, governance, ML, AI and analytics. Databricks made sense for us."

Building a data mesh architecture with Unity Catalog

ITV used the Databricks Data Intelligence Platform to power a data mesh framework to connect its three disparate domains — marketing, commercial advertising and product experience. Each domain includes a cross-functional team of data scientists, engineers and analysts who create various data products. Each team handles data ingestion differently, depending on the type of data they ingest and where it originates. The lakehouse efficiently manages the scale of data ITV generates from both streaming and batch data sources for analytics and machine learning purposes. "The lakehouse is all about efficiency and the ability to standardize and ensure consistency," says Burnichon. "The speed and the ease of use, the fact that it's continuously developed — it's the perfect place to help us deliver value to the business."

To create its data mesh, ITV relied on open source Delta Lake for its storage layer and Unity Catalog for its centralized governance layer. "Before Unity Catalog, access to data was a challenge for us, especially because we have three domains," says Burnichon. "Managing access permissions using IAM roles for individual users across three domains with multiple data products was becoming overwhelming. We implemented Unity Catalog to streamline this process. It is user-friendly and allows us to easily manage access across domains, data products and workspaces. Additionally, since Unity Catalog is native to Databricks, it made sense to use a tool that is seamlessly integrated with the platform rather than adding a separate solution."

Unity Catalog has helped ITV to create a self-service platform for its data users. "Unity Catalog interface also offers a more user-friendly experience for the consumers of data products. It allows them to easily see what access they have across domains, which helps to speed up the process of gaining insights from the data," says Burnichon.

Finally, Unity Catalog has made it easier for ITV to meet its compliance requirements. "Being able to claim compliance is important, but we also need to be able to demonstrate that we have appropriate access controls in place through audits," says Burnichon. "Unity Catalog offers many benefits in terms of its auditability."

A future-proof data platform for rapid value realization

The Databricks Data Intelligence Platform allowed ITV to quickly set up a consolidated data platform and implement a data mesh architecture. According to Burnichon, "Deploying Databricks was fast – we went from zero to a fully functional platform in just a few weeks. Without Databricks, it would have taken a lot of time, effort and money to bring all of the components we use together. Databricks acts as the glue that enables automation and self-service, which are essential for the data mesh to work effectively. We wouldn't have achieved the level of maturity we have today without Databricks."

The lakehouse also empowered ITV's marketing department to leverage data to create and deliver marketing campaigns in minutes rather than the months previously required. Meanwhile, ITV's commercial advertising division now delivers optimized versions of its key products while significantly reducing the manual effort required to produce them. "We've streamlined, and we can now produce the same things much faster and at a larger scale than we could before," says Burnichon.

Unity Catalog helped ITV meet strict compliance and privacy standards by ensuring that no one has unauthorized access to data. According to Burnichon, it used to be difficult to provide information about who had access to what data, but now, with Unity Catalog, it's possible to do so quickly. Burnichon says, "If somebody from compliance asks us to provide that data, we can do so in a matter of hours."

Finally, Unity Catalog's governance capabilities have set ITV up for future endeavors and new ways to leverage its data. "Using Unity Catalog is a great stepping stone for some of the things we want to do in the future," says Burnichon.