Nine Entertainment’s resilient Adobe Stock workflow helps the channel thrive

Digital image of person waiting at a bus stop standing in front of an orange bus.

Easy access to royalty-free stock imagery and video footage has transformed TV broadcasting. It saves a significant amount of time and money, and also means the process for collecting imagery to help tell stories remains seamless — even in the face of adversity. This was especially the case when the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, and lockdowns halted TV production and made photo and video shoots impossible.

Nine Entertainment, one of Australia's biggest media groups, has relied heavily on its cloud-based workflow of sourcing photos and other visual assets to endure despite challenges. During the early days of lockdowns, this workflow proved to be a game-changer; and the same was true when its main TV station, Channel 9, was hit by a cyber-attack at the height of the pandemic, which affected TV programming and newspaper print production across the country for more than 24 hours.

At the forefront of the switch to a consistent stock strategy is 9 News supervising art director, Mark Busuttil, who services the main clients of Channel 9’s news graphics department, including popular long-running programs like Today, A Current Affair, and 60 Minutes.

We asked Busuttil how Adobe Stock helps his team source the right kind of content (no matter where teams are based) and how their creative process stays consistent and resilient even when faced with extraordinary obstacles.

The benefits of moving to a single stock library

Traditionally, the biggest challenge for the graphics department has been finding just the right visuals for its projects. When Busuttil first started at Channel 9 35 years ago, he spent whole weekends photographing his own reference material, hoping the producer would be happy with the result. These days the visuals are readily available online and staff can find exactly what they’re looking for simply by typing in a keyword.

Channel 9 used to download content from a variety of stock libraries but when the team realized that Adobe Stock’s collection contained not only millions of photos and video but also thousands of illustrations, audio tracks, and 3D assets, they decided that a one-stop solution facilitated a much more efficient — and cost effective — workflow.

One of the main benefits of using Adobe Stock is the fact that usage rights are no longer a concern: Once a team member licenses an asset, anyone within Nine Entertainment can use it in their work. As the licensing doesn’t restrict the buyer to only being able to use an image once, for example, it brings both significant cost-savings and peace of mind to the process.

Adobe Stock is now being used across the company, from news editors to the sports department; and an added benefit is that none of them ever have to leave their preferred Adobe Creative Cloud app to find the right assets for their projects. Whether it’s Photoshop, After Effects, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, or Adobe Audition, team members can use the in-app search (of more than 280 million assets) to find, license, and then share content via Creative Cloud Libraries without needing to switch between programs.

The variety of assets at Adobe Stock, combined with access to unlimited standard downloads thanks to Nine's Creative Cloud Pro subscription, and the Find Similar feature, provides a lot of flexibility. This ensures the team doesn’t have to repeatedly use the exact same stock asset but can customize it slightly or find entirely new assets that match the original’s content, color, and composition. Refining search results has enabled the team to build up a huge library of similar imagery and video footage, while the ability to download vectors helps to create graphics and typography that is on-brand or goes with a certain internal or external visual identity.

“News tends to be cyclic,” Busuttil explains. “We get the same brief time and time again, but you always want the images you submit to be a little different. Just putting the right keyword into the search bar gives you the seeds of inspiration for that. The Today show, for example, wants everything to look like early morning, so we type in ‘morning sky’ and get a whole lot of thumbnails to choose from.”

Real world stress tests for the new workflow

Working in the cloud with Adobe Stock meant that even when COVID-19 restrictions started to impact Nine’s broadcasting, the graphics department was able to continue working remotely effectively.

“The process was identical,” Busuttil says. “All that changed was our environment. Instead of being in our offices, we were at home. It was seamless: We’d still use Creative Cloud, we’d still use Adobe Stock, we’d still access the same reference, and we’d still go through the same creative process.”

A much bigger challenge, however, was the cyber-attack against Channel 9 — the largest on a media company in Australia’s history — that severely disrupted the network’s live programming in March 2021. Still, despite this challenge, the graphics team's digital workflow remained intact.

“We lost absolutely everything for a moment,” Busuttil remembers. “People needed to work remotely because nothing was working at our headquarters in Sydney. Being able to use Adobe Stock gave us one less thing to worry about because in a heartbeat we could have staff working on Creative Cloud, accessing images and putting together the storytelling sequences for the TV shows. It was easy because we were spoilt for choice in terms of finding suitable material.”

When the system went down in Sydney, initially the graphics department deployed a team of six people to Melbourne, who collaborated with the local team there to produce the show’s visuals on a daily basis. As a result, viewers couldn’t even tell that the network had been impacted.

Creating high-quality, on-brand content quickly and efficiently

The integrated Adobe Stock-based workflow has had a massive impact on the way visuals are sourced across the Nine network. It has created a worry-free process that has accelerated creativity, led to more visual variety, and increased production dramatically. Tasks that would normally have taken a few days to complete, can now be done in an hour — a huge productivity boost in a very fast-paced business. As a result, teams spend less time managing stock assets and more time creating and storytelling in the best possible ways.

“I can just download a whole heap of themed images from Adobe Stock and incorporate them into my animations,” Busuttil points out. “And I can do it in such a way that they look like a Nine product. It made such a big difference that I had one member of staff ring me out of the blue to say, ‘You’ve made my job more enjoyable again!’."