Building a Better Billing Machine

Vendors plan necessary enhancements to systems to prepare for a busy 2012

Why This Matters

The Future of BXF

As stations and channels look to more closely integrate their traffic and billing systems with other parts of their operations, using the BXF—the Broadcast Exchange Format that was launched as a SMPTE standard several years ago—would seem to be the obvious solution.

“It offers a number of efficiencies, and a number of our clients have [implemented it with] live logs, which has been an enormous and very benefi cial change to broadcast work flows,” says Crist Myers, president and CEO of Myers Information Systems.

But so far, integrations using BXF have proceeded at a modest pace, generally occurring when stations acquire new automation systems.

“We are finally seeing beta examples of it being put to use,” says Eric Mathewson, founder and CEO at WideOrbit. “Everyone believes it is a technology that has the capability to improve operations. But I don’t see a big groundswell of support from stations saying we have to do this because it will cut out a lot of expenses.”

Michael Atkin, founding partner and president of BroadView, notes that most RFPs from stations for upgrades now include a request for BXF.

“But of the ones that go through, less than 50% are actually putting BXF to air,” Atkin notes. “The reality is that it is going to take a long time.”

Others note, however, that demand for BXF will continue to grow as the standard improves and its uses expand. “We are starting to use it with other integrations, such as archiving systems,” Myers says. —GW

Broadcasters are expecting a nice
bounce from political and Olympics spending
in 2012. But they are also facing some
Olympian complexities when it comes to managing
their sales efforts and operations, which traffic systems
and billing vendors are working to solve.

One illustration of the intricacies likely to spring
from tighter election-cycle inventories can be found in
the way stations promote their programs and schedules.
Eric Mathewson, founder and CEO at WideOrbit,
says a station that over-promotes or under-promotes
its programming by only 10% “is essentially throwing
1.5% of their gross inventory out the window because
about 15% of gross inventory is promotions.”

During elections, this can be an even greater problem,
Mathewson adds, because of tight inventories.
“If you can get the same promotional bang using 12%
of inventory for promotions rather than 15%, there is
obviously an upside,” he says.

To help deal with that
problem, WideOrbit
had been beta testing
the WO Promo product
it is now rolling out
widely to its customers.
“WO Promo automates
the placement
process in an algorithmic
way, so they can
get much better use of
available inventory,”
Mathewson explains.

That is only one
step, as vendors have also been pushing to offer a
more complete range of solutions that go far beyond
simply trafficking.

“What we are seeing from customers is less and less
of a desire to buy independent pieces of the puzzle
and more interest in buying all the pieces and getting
support from just one vendor,” says Michael Atkin,
founding partner and president of BroadView, which
earlier this year launched OneSolution, an integrated
traffic, sales and programming suite.

Offering a complete solution is key, Atkin adds,
because of the complexities of constantly upgrading
myriad solutions from different vendors. “By the time
a broadcaster qualifies the upgrade from one vendor,
another vendor has an upgrade,” he notes. “You get
to the point where you can’t move forward and end
up working with old technology,” which is a major
problem for broadcasters trying to expand multiplatform

Harris, meanwhile, has been working on a number
of its products, including a new interactive reporting
interface that has been in beta with several clients and
will be rolled out wider by the end of the year. And
NetGain is a data analytic and business intelligence
tool that Harris is planning to install at a broadcaster
in the first part of 2012.

The moves are part of a plan to offer a wider array of
tools to handle multiple platforms, notes Scott Criley,
director of media and work flow at the broadcast
communications division of Harris.

“The goal is to have a single place where orders can
be entered across different distribution mediums—
linear, streaming, VOD, mobile—that is combined
with an execution system for those different distribution
channels where appropriate, and tied together
with a billing capability so they can provide one invoice
to clients,” Criley notes.

In providing an integrated solution for its clients,
Crist Myers, president and CEO of Myers Information
Systems, stresses that the company focused on
features that would improve the user interface so that
tasks take less time.

“We have added dozens and dozens of new features,”
Myers notes. “But it has been a process of
adding and collapsing and adding and collapsing to
insure the product is usable and intuitive. It is important
that we are simplifying things for the user,
because traffic and sales are being asked to do so
much more than they were just a few years ago.”

That effort has helped produce a very high retention
rate of 97% in the last 25 years, while attracting
new clients, Myers adds.

At Pilat Media, two notable developments have
been improvements to the vendor’s IBMS OmniCast
back-office scheduling system for on-demand content,
along with its dashboards.

“What we’ve done is given them a single point of
view into their whole operations and the status of
their work process,” notes John Larrabee, VP of the
Americas at Pilat.

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