NavigatingNew Workflows

Traffic and billing system upgrades are key to growth of initiatives to streamline operations
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As TV stations look for new ways to cut costs, traf! c and billing systems are playing a more central role in efforts to further streamline workflows.

Here, one key trend is upgrades that automate more operations by more tightly integrating traffic and billing systems with automation, media asset management and other facets of stations’ infrastructure.

“Stations are not just looking for smarter systems, but smarter integrations with other systems so there is better communications and more streamlined workflows,” says Bill Cleveland, senior business analyst for the broadcast communications division of Harris Corp.

Harris recently used the Broadcast Exchange Format (BXF) standard to much more closely integrate the Harris ADC automation system and their OSi-Traffic solution at Cox’s Fox affiliate KTVU in San Francisco. In the coming months, other Cox stations will be making similar upgrades, which create a live log to streamline work" ows between traffic and master control.

“The biggest benefit [of the closer integration] is that it eliminates all manual transactions that are constantly occurring between traffic and operations departments to the point where you can make changes to the playlist five minutes before air with a live log,” says Chuck Kocsis, manager of product interoperability at Harris’ broadcast communications unit. But that integration is “just the first step” in creating more streamlined workflows, Kocsis adds.

“We are now looking at how this can help us in terms of integrating other areas, such as digital asset management,” he notes. “It could also allow us to integrate multiple automation systems into a centralized traf! cking operation and seamlessly allow traffic to interact with individual sites in a much more automated way.”

In the push for tighter integration between various systems, vendors are also offering new modules to control additional operations or are developing new products that can closely integrate into their core traffic and billing solutions.

WideOrbit launched an automation solution at the NAB show in 2011 and has since tested it in about half a dozen operations, says Eric Mathewson, founder and CEO of the company, which has installed its core WO Traffic product at 1,218 TV stations.

WideOrbit is also pushing forward with its WO Central, an advertising market tool that allows agencies and advertisers to access and buy inventory from participating stations. The system is currently deployed at several stations in San Diego and Kansas City.

“We’re currently focusing on infomercials, but we will be expanding that to shorter forms and expect to be in 30 to 50 markets by the end of the year,” Mathewson says.

Major changes are also taking place in the workings of traffic systems in public media, where many stations are looking to cut costs by setting up centralized master controls, says Crist Myers, president/CEO of Myers Information Systems.

“We are involved in integrating our ProTrack solutions into a lot of interesting projects for joint master controls that are starting to emerge in the public media,” he says.

While Myers says these projects are a “great way to save operational expenses,” having several feeds come into the same master control also creates additional complexity, which requires better integration between master control and traffic and billing solutions. “Stations have to rely more heavily on the ability of software to keep everything in sync,” Myers says.

Synchronizing linear TV feeds with online and mobile efforts also remains an important driver for new upgrades. Myers notes that the National Hockey League recently agreed to deploy his company’s program management and scheduling application. “One of the key reasons was that the NHL wanted a better system to synchronize their Web efforts,” he says.

On the cable network side, the push toward TV Everywhere deployments is also making multiplatform features more important. “Solutions that allow channels to sell cross-platform are key,” says John Larrabee, VP of the Americas, Pilat Media.

To help with that, Pilat Media will launch at NAB 2012 in April new automated metadata workflow solutions for its IBMS platform as well as new features for rights management and the automation of catch-up services.

Broadway Systems has been doing crossplatform billing for Fox News for several years and already has extensive experience in handling traffic, sales and billing for linear TV, VOD, online and mobile, says Chris Noe, the company’s managing director.

Having a complete end-to-end platform has also helped Broadway streamline workflows and attract clients. “In the past 24 months Broadway has been selected by eight new customers representing 12 cable networks,” Noe says.

E-mail comments to gpwin@oregoncoast.com

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