With broadcasters and cable networks looking for better ways to manage their airtime and streamline traffic and billing functions, the 2014 NAB Show in Las Vegas this week will find vendors meeting the needs with a number of improvements to their software.
Many of these upgrades will offer simplified user interfaces, better integration with outside systems and improved features for handling cross-platform sales and advertising packages.
“We are seeing increasingly complex deals that require better tools for managing that complexity,” says James Ackerman, executive chairman of Broadway Systems.
To meet that demand, Broadway Systems is releasing version 7.0.6 of its software with a number of major improvements that are based on extensive customer feedback, Ackerman says. These include a much enhanced spot management tool; better capabilities to automate and simplify the placement of ads into logs; a “deal cockpit” that shows the real-time status of a deal; the ability to work in multiple logs at the same time; improved abilities to move around a schedule; and upgraded systems for alerting all the relevant staff when changes are made to programming.
“It gives them the ability to handle more complex deals and to reduce the potential for error,” Ackerman says.
Navigating Digital Dilemmas
One important aspect of the complexity facing stations and channels is the need for traffic and sales systems to help manage ad sales and content distribution across a variety of platforms, adds Graham Heap, product line manager for the Landmark sales, rights and scheduling products at Imagine Communications.
During NAB, Imagine will be showing improvements to its Landmark line that will provide better integration with digital media platforms; enhancements to its live log capabilities that allow more ads to be sold closer to their airtime; systems for delivering targeted ads; improved user interfaces; and cloud-based versions of their software and systems. “Cloud deployments can reduce the cost of ownership and make them much easier to implement and support,” Heap says.
Meanwhile, Myers (formerly Myers Information Systems) will show a new version of ProTrack that was released late last year, reports CEO and president Crist Myers. This included a new database engine, improved sales tools, a better user interface and a variety of new media management features.
A major goal of the upgrade was also to reduce the need for staff by automating more tasks. “There tends to be more money to be saved in reducing costs than you can gain by increasing revenue,” Myers says.
Better Window Into Traffic
During the show, SintecMedia will be talking about the new 4.0 version of its OnAir product. This release includes a simplified and improved user interface and new features for program rights management. “Traffic and billing departments have a very complex job with a lot of tight deadlines so our latest release is focused on simplifying their work,” says Geoff Nagel, VP of go to market strategy for North America at SintecMedia, which recently inked a major deal to supply its OnAir Enterprise software to the Fox Networks Group for its cable and broadcast networks.
As it digests several recent acquisitions, Sintec- Media will also be showing off integration between OnAir and the StorerTV programming software SIMS, reports Thomas Hultquist, director of product experts at SintecMedia.
Further down the road, SintecMedia’s deal to acquire Pilat Media will help improve both its offerings and customer service, Nagel adds.
To improve its traffic, billing and sales software, WideOrbit has been spending around one-third of its revenue on research and development, reports Eric Mathewson, founder and CEO of the company. “It has helped us continue to gain market share and build a much bigger business,” he says, pointing to announcements just prior to NAB saying 2,600 stations now use their software and that their products went live on 65 TV and radio stations in just one day, March 31.
One major focus for new features at this year’s NAB will be better tools for managing multiplatform delivery. Here, upgrades include better terminology for handling multiplatform deals; a new Internet order system to handle linear and non-linear sales in the same system; improved features for handling complex deals; and better integration with lockbox payment systems that will be important in the upcoming political season. “Linear TV is still the vast preponderance of revenue, and digital hasn’t impacted broadcast revenues, but we want to make sure that all of our clients are ready to make the transition as digital becomes a larger part of their business,” he says.
EYE ON EFFICIENCIES
With broadcasters looking for ways to cut costs being a perennial theme at NAB, vendors will be offering a host of improvements to automation systems, both for production control rooms and playout.
Ross Video will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the 2004 launch of its OverDrive with a number of new production automation features, including “much tighter integration with graphics, onset monitors, lighting” and other aspects of studio production, reports Allan Pepper, marketing product manager, technical, at Ross Video. It will also be showing OverDrive Caprica, which makes it possible to control production switchers from other suppliers. In the past, clients had to use a switcher from Ross.
Following the acquisition of Mosart Medialab, Vizrt will be showing several improvements, including the ability for the production automation system to act as “the video server for playout so that both are driven by Mosart,” explains Vizrt CTO Petter Ole Jakobsen.
And NVerzion will unveil its next-generation automation and media asset management workflow platform at the show, and partner with other vendors to offer their automation system as part of an integrated playout or channel-in-a-box package, reports Scott Murphy, president and CEO of the company.
Snell will be showing improvements to both its Morpheus automation systems and its channel-in-a-box or integrated playout systems, reports Ian Young, product specialist for TV Everywhere at Snell.
Young says they’ve seen a dramatic increase in their interest in channel-in-a-box solutions and very strong demand for better integration between their automation systems, ICE channel-in-a-box product and traffic systems using broadcast exchange format or BXF. “BXF integrations are a major focus,” he says.
In addition, they have added additional features to ICE for advanced graphics, loudness and other features and will be rolling out a cloud based version of ICE. “It would allow users to bring up a new channel within minutes,” something that would be helpful during the Olympics or other major sporting events, he adds.
Also during NAB, Vizrt will be showing a number of products for streamlining workflows, including what it is calling “metagraphic” workflows. “What that means is that we will be showing a complete workflow where you don’t burn in the graphics until the last possible moment,” says Jakobsen. “They are burned into only at playout time.”
That makes it much easier to make changes to graphics to correct mistakes or to insert different graphics for different platforms.