Rob O'Brien, ITV Studios

Head of International Technology

Rob O'Brien Biography

As head of international technology at ITV Studios, Rob O’Brien is always on the lookout for new technology that can allow the company to work more flexibly and develop new workflows.

Based in the UK but with operations in 12 other countries, ITV Studios is a television production and distribution company owned by the British broadcaster ITV plc. Best-known for its output for UK channels such as ITV and Channel 4, ITV Studios is also intensively involved with broadcast production and distribution in the US, Australia, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, Israel, France, Spain and Scandinavia.

Overseeing the non-UK technical operations from London, head of international technology Rob O’Brien concisely summarises his main role as being to “maintain, organise and innovate. I spend a lot of my time looking at innovation, managing technical teams, and heading up the shift towards a new landscape – which inevitably involves a great deal of research around the cloud and computing innovation in general.”

Whilst there might seem to be an air of inevitability about O’Brien landing such a role – by his own admission he was “the geek that teachers asked to help with their IT” – he insists that he originally studied computing “because I was rubbish at everything else! But it’s true that I knew from a young age that I was going to pursue a career in technology, and once I had completed my Bachelor of Computer Engineering I started out in the newspaper industry working on picture asset management.”

Given his subsequent progression into broadcasting, it was a case of ‘right place, right time’ as developers of asset management technology were then beginning to target TV production. Recognising that this is where his aspirations resided, O’Brien had an initial stint at ITV working on ITV’s early digital and tapeless initiatives, but also picking up invaluable knowledge of CDNs, transcoding and media distribution. He then spent a period at Sony Pictures, where he added an international dimension to his career by overseeing digital content production distribution for platforms around Europe.

All of this experience meant that he was very well-prepared for his second, and ongoing, stint at ITV Studios. Working as lead technologist in digital creation, O’Brien was tasked with “making our use of data more structured” and, latterly, working to “better align the ITV businesses in the UK and internationally so that they could communicate and create more efficiently. Eventually that evolved into the new role of head of international technology.”

Alignment between the different ITV Studios operations continues to be an overriding priority for O’Brien, who works closely with each territory’s technology head to ensure that the “corporate stacks are working well and that all of the systems we use – i.e. for production, data and archiving – are effectively organised, and where they differ between operations that they are fully aligned.”