WideOrbit Creates Electronic Spot-Ad Exchange

New WO Central product will link buyers and sellers
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WideOrbit, the leading provider of traffic software to U.S. broadcasters with some 1,100 stations and networks as clients, has created a new product that it believes will foster a real-time electronic exchange between buyers and sellers of TV spots. WO Central will allow ad agencies and rep firms to directly access the inventory of all stations running the company’s WO Traffic software.

San Francisco-based WideOrbit says its traffic software manages more than 50% of spot inventory worth some $14 billion. The WO Central system will let agencies and stations negotiate prices, generate orders and process them automatically in real-time.

“This will allow a buyer to access inventory across all WO client stations with the click of a mouse,” says WideOrbit founder and CEO Eric Mathewson. “So, instead of a buyer calling a rep, hoping that they’re in, then calling the station and hoping the station account executive is in, then waiting to get a response back, they can do that instantly. It will handle every stage of the buying process from avails to negotiation to orders to invoices.”

The WO Central product, which is being unveiled at the 4A’s conference in San Francisco this week, has entered beta testing and will be first deployed by the NBC-owned stations. Mathewson says his initial vision when founding WideOrbit 10 years ago was to create an electronic exchange, replacing the traditional manual, paper-intensive spot buying process. But when the company’s traffic software took off, WideOrbit’s engineering team focused on growing that business and put development of the exchange product aside.

While the Television Bureau of Advertising has tackled the cumbersome workflow of spot buying with its ePort initiative, Mathewson says WO Central goes one step better by providing a direct two-way connection with Donovan Data Systems’ DARE (Direct Agency Rep Exchange) software, a 20-plus-year-old system that still handles the vast majority of agency and rep buys. Integrating with DARE has been difficult because the software is frequently updated, and Donovan doesn’t create defined versions of its system that third parties can use as a benchmark.

But after many months of development work with Donovan, WideOrbit has figured out a workaround. “It was hard to do,” Mathewson says.

The WO Central system will make use of ePort as well, using it to place orders for non-WideOrbit stations. The initial focus for WO Central will be longform infomercials, with direct response, political and brand advertising rolling out later this year.

While the system would appear to negatively impact rep firms’ business, Mathewson maintains that these firms will always have their place handling large buys from major advertisers. He believes WO Central will make day-to-day spot buying much easier, particularly for smaller agencies.