Despite all the hype surrounding online video and the push that many programmers and operators have made to expand the content they make available on digital platforms, the process— not to mention the prospect—of turning digital dimes into serious dollars remains very much a work in progress.
“Our clients say that 93% to 97% of their revenue is still coming from traditional media,” says Eric Mathewson, founder and CEO of WideOrbit, which has been investing heavily in building cross-platform ad capabilities. “But they know that everything is going to a unicast model and they need to find ways to streamline and automate that process. Right now, they might have to use a dozen different companies to cobble together a solution. They would like to see less vendors and a complete solution so they don’t have to deal with integration problems.”
Toward that end, WideOrbit acquired Fivia, which manages digital advertising operations, in April and then also took over Abacast, a provider of streaming, live and on-demand ad insertion and monetization technologies, in June. There are more deals on the way, Mathewson says.
“Currently, there isn’t a soup-to-nuts offering, and if we can tie it all together it would be a huge advance,” he says.
Other major vendors of traffic and billing systems have the same goal. “Ultimately, advertisers want to buy and TV networks want to sell campaigns that can run across multiple platforms,” says James Ackerman, executive chairman of Broadway Systems. “The industry isn’t there yet. But it may only be a year or two before that is the way things are bought and sold.” Some advances have been made. On the front end of the process, Ackerman notes that Music Choice uses their system to put together proposals for both digital platforms and linear TV, while Fox News uses their systems on the back end to generate a single invoice for buys on multiple platforms. “Over time, we think that both will come together,” Ackerman says.
Integrating traffic and billing systems for TV with the ad technologies used on digital platforms is already helping streamline some crossplatform efforts. Scott Criley, chief technology officer for the media business at Imagine Communications explains that they have complete integration with Google DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP) and that they are integrating their LandmarkOSI Sales offering with FreeWheel, which is widely used for online and digital ads.
In addition, they’ve been adding analytics and tools for the impression-based deals typically used for digital buys so that users can combine that with the tools traditionally used in TV. “We want to help them move to more impression-based buys,” says John Patrick, product engineering director at Imagine.
Another hot topic is programmatic ad systems, which are widely used in the digital world but are only now beginning to be applied to TV. In June, Clypd, a TV ad solutions platform, published an application programming interface (API) for television advertising that provides standardized communication between players involved in programmatic television media sales, says company CEO and founder Joshua Summers.
“We are not looking to replace all the investment that has been made in traffic and billing systems,” he says. “We hope that publishing the specification will help create an open dialog and work collaboratively so the industry has a common language to communicate information between systems.”
Walt Horstman, president of AudienceXpress explains that their parent company Visible World is already integrated with a number of traffic and billing systems. To further streamline the process of creating and carrying out these deals, he adds that AudienceXpress has been focusing on automating and improving the range of data their programmatic platform offers TV players.
Another area of focus is systems for handling video-on-demand and TV Everywhere sales opportunities, adds Michael J. McGuire, VP of MSA Media, which provides the Gabriel system for sales proposals, deal maintenance, traffic and billing systems.
“Programmers would much rather shift viewing to VOD, where they can better monetize it because fast-forwarding through commercials is disabled,” he says. That demand has prompted them to develop tools so they can sell combined viewing for VOD and linear TV.
“Ultimately, as they move more content to [TV Everywhere] we want to support the sale of all video on all platforms in one solution,” McGuire says. “We are already working with one major company to offer a single system for linear and non-linear.”
VOD has even become a priority for some broadcast stations, particularly in the public sector. “A lot of them produce and own their own content and there is a lot of experimentation with monetizing it,” says Crist A. Myers, president and CEO at Myers, which first introduced a VOD module in 2008. “They have been aggressive in this area so it is a major focus for us.”