The two leading rep firms along with the broadcast software developer will provide the financial support to maintain and further develop the system for buying and selling spot TV.
The two leading U.S. TV station rep companies — Katz Media and Cox Reps — are joining with broadcast software developer Strata to maintain and continue the development of ePort, the Internet-based system for buying and selling spot TV advertising launched by TVB four years ago.
“ePort needs a financial support system,” said Leo MacCourtney, of Katz Television, who is acting as a spokesman for the new ePort consortium. “Both Katz and Cox are stepping up to say, ‘It’s very important that local television have an electronic platform to conduct business.'”
The handoff was effective Sept. 1.
Determined to strip some of the transactional costs out of spot TV and make it more competitive, TVB and its member companies spent millions of dollars to get ePort up and running in February 2007. It was a pet project of former TVB President Chris Rohrs, who retired at the end of 2009.
But last year, TVB’s new regime headed by Steve Lanzano began asking why a trade association dedicated to promoting spot TV should be so deeply involved in what is essentially software development and maintenance. He began looking for some other entity to adopt it.
“The reps are perfectly positioned to become the facilitators of e-business for our industry,” said Dave Lougee, president of Gannett Broadcasting and chairman ofTVB. “This agreement ensures that any local broadcast TV customer, of any size, can do business electronically with any rep firm or TV station. That will be key to the future success of our industry.”
Strata’s involvement makes sense. Under contract with TVB, it has been the lead developer of the system.
According to MacCourtney, ePort will complement the 25-year-old DARE system that the reps have used to transact national spot business with the major buying agencies with Donovan buying software.
“Now the smaller agencies that don’t use DARE and may want to deal directly with stations have an option,” he said. “ePort is another electronic highway by which you can conduct business.”
MacCourtney said Cox and Katz are making a “substantial” financial commitment to sustain ePort, but declined to define “substantial.”
“Our thinking is that this is an investment back into the marketplace. It continues the ePort functionality for the broadcasting community, and gives a base for Strata to design even better functionality going forward,” he said.
Since Lanzano moved in at TVB, the association has done little to promote the use of ePort. But MacCourtney said that there has been “no diminution of service” and that the system continues to handle a steady flow of business. ePort transactions now exceed $2 billion, he said.
Representatives of Cox Reps and Strata could not be immediately reached for comment.