Traffic System Vendors Go Into OverdriveCable net sector revs up as programmers replace homegrown solutions 9/03/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern
The market for integrated traffic and
billing systems has been transformed
in recent months, with more vendors
expanding into the cable network sector as they
continue to refine offerings aimed at streamlining
operations in the broadcast station business.
“The cable business right now is completely
wide open, and the landscape is ripe for someone
to become the go-to vendor of choice,”
says Michael Atkin, president and CEO of
BroadView Software, whose customers include
Discovery, BET and Ion Media Networks.
The increased activity was triggered in part
by the dominant player in the broadcast station
market acquiring the trafficking system
assets of the dominant player in the cable sector.
WideOrbit, a developer of business management
software for media companies, purchased
VCI Solutions’ Orion Business System
assets in November 2010 in a move to expand
into the cable network arena.
But the ramp-up also reflects cable networks’
need to find better systems to handle
multiplatform distribution of content, as well
as the fact that some larger networks that developed
in-house systems are now looking to
reduce costs by using an outside vendor.
“There is a mad scramble to pick up systems
that were developed in-house 10 or 15 years
ago when there was one choice, and now there
are five choices with much better features,” says
John Larrabee, VP Americas for Pilat Media,
whose clients include HBO Latin America and
Showtime Networks. The company spent $12
million on version 6 of its Integrated Broadcast
Management System, currently being rolled out.
WideOrbit has made considerable progress
over the past year switching programmers from
homegrown systems to its WO Network cable
channel solution, reports Eric Mathewson,
founder and CEO.
“One of the issues for cable networks was that
you had sales and traffic systems from different
suppliers, which meant that getting them to talk
to each other was challenging,” Mathewson explains.
“We’ve built a sales system that is native
to our traffic system and are offering one system
that is being adopted by some of the largest
cable networks and broadcasters.”
Besides WideOrbit, Broadview Software and
Pilat Media, others looking to expand their cable
footprint include Broadway Systems, which
works with such companies as BBC America,
Music Choice, TV One and other clients that
handle about $3 billion in advertising; Invision,
whose clients include DirecTV (for its Deal-
Maker ad sales solution) and Bloomberg (for its
DealMaker Crossroad system); and SintecMedia,
whose clients include ABC and NBCUniversal.
SintecMedia is implementing its enterprisewide
system at 18 cable channels and broadcast
networks, notes Dan Yuval, VP of product
management. The system is designed “to manage
a large and complex environment with a
very rich feature set” that “goes way beyond
traffic,” he adds.
SintecMedia is also developing an additional
component to streamline workflows for multiplatform
operations with “a single, unified solution
to handle multiple platforms,” Yuval says.
Broadcast stations are also moving to streamline
the process of handling sales, traffic and
billing, and a number of vendors remain focused
on that market as well. “Clients want a
single advertiser record,” says Mathewson of
WideOrbit, which rolled out a mobile module
earlier this year as part of its focus on expanding
multiplatform functionality. “Clients don’t want
a separate record for their mobile, online video
or traditional station and network operations.
They want one record across all of them.”
Additionally, stations continue to look for solutions
that will “drive efficiencies across their
sales, traffic and billing systems” by standardizing
and centralizing systems, says John Patrick,
managing director of North American media at
Harris Broadcast Communications, which develops
a range of software for media companies.
On that front, one notable development at
broadcast stations has been tighter integration
between traffic and automation systems using
BXF, the broadcast exchange format.
Harris’ Live Update BFX product is generating
“tremendous benefi ts on the traffic side
around productivity,” says Chuck Kocsis, manager
of product interoperability. “But we are also
seeing the benefi ts in being able to increase revenue,”
because BXF integrations make it much
easier to insert new ads at the last minute.
This will be particularly important over the
next few months, as stations manage political
ads. “We have some station groups that are
really pushing to get this installed so they can
take advantage of last-minute election buys,”