Software vendors like Harris, WideOrbit and BroadView are streamlining their databases for multiple platforms, updating tools to offer predictive analytics and releasing apps that allow sales and traffic directors to access, add and edit orders and view inventory on the road through the cloud.
The traffic and billing sector of the broadcast industry is far beyond just logging ads that play on a TV station’s linear signal. Today, traffic directors are expected to do more with fewer people, manage ad operations across countless platforms and be able to do all of that from inside the office or out in the field.
“It’s no secret that people in this industry aren’t just dealing with TV anymore,” says Larry Keene, CEO of the Traffic Directors Guild of America. “Things are getting more complex every day because beyond over-the-air TV, we have websites, video-on-demand, mobile, apps….”
Responding to the need, software vendors like Harris, WideOrbit and BroadView are streamlining their databases for multiple platforms, updating tools to offer predictive analytics and releasing apps that allow sales and traffic directors to access, add and edit orders and view inventory on the road through the cloud.
Apps and the Cloud
Tools that traditionally lived on a desktop computer have made their way to smartphones and tablets in the past year.
“We’re really focused on enabling people to do their jobs from a mobile tablet or get information from a mobile device when they’re out in the field, or home with their families,” says Scott Criley, Harris Broadcast business development director. “Working on tablets or phones allows them to get real-time information that lets them have interactive conversations with their customers, so they can sell more product.”
The company released OSi-Go, a mobile version of its OSi platform that’s designed to let sales executives in the field approve orders. The app aims to improve the workflow of that process.
“Before, applications were really commercially focused to consumers, but now we’re seeing that businesses want that same functionality,” Criley says. “People expect that functionality in the applications we provide.”
AdConnections, Harris’ sales tool, has always been a cloud-based solution hosted by Harris, allowing salespeople to access information like ratings and Web traffic while in the field. The traffic and billing side of the business is also moving to a cloud platform, making scaling easier, especially as major station groups continue to grow through acquisitions.
“We’re quickly moving toward being able to offer [OSi] as it exists today, but through the cloud platform — specifically on services on the database side,” says John Patrick, a software engineer at Harris.
Criley says by having access to those databases from anywhere, it lets users place ads more efficiently. “We need to look at how we can take advantage of the characteristics of cloud computing to really enhance what our customers do,” he says.
“It’s not just about trying to lower their operational cost and give them ubiquitous data access, it’s more about how can we now improve the products based on the capabilities that cloud solutions provide.”
This year, WideOrbit released a new tablet app for iOS and Android that lets users enter orders and pull out client and station information over the company’s server, making selling in the field easier.
“Today you see management and sales people predominantly using tablet devices, much more than even a year ago,” says Eric Mathewson, WideOrbit founder and CEO, adding that traffic managers aren’t as likely to use mobile devices for their day-to-day operations, like salesman would.
While salesman are out of the office talking to clients, he says, “they can take orders, review orders, make changes to it, have it go back into the system, then do the normal managerial and ad-ops workflow in an intelligent way, and that has a strong need and use right now.”
Stations either let WideOrbit host the cloud, or keep the data on their in-house server, Mathewson says.
Pulling up logs on smartphones may not be the best option, however, Heather Farr, programming and traffic director for Meredith’s southwest hub of stations, says she’s a big fan of WideOrbit’s WO Traffic solution, but not of accessing logs on phones.
“I wouldn’t be able to see anything; it’d be too small,” she says. “I can see why sales wants access to that information on mobile devices to see where there’s open inventory…. I know if something comes up, I have my laptop and access to [the system].”
At this year’s NAB Show, BroadView unveiled its cloud-based platform for traffic and sales management. The company is marketing its hosted solution by promoting its advantages, such as reduced IT costs, the elimination of potential infrastructure fail points and a more streamlined workflow.
“Cloud computing has fast become a part of the conversation across mainstream IT, and it brings certain advantages to broadcasters seeking a way to have our powerful tools with a lower upfront cost for running the solution,” Michael Atkin, BroadView founding partner and president, says in a statement. “Adding the cloud-hosted option is just an extension of our cost-conscious design philosophy that lowers IT costs by running on the lightest possible hardware.”
TV stations aren’t just concerned about their linear broadcast signal anymore. They need to sell ads on their mobile apps, websites and video streams. Logging all of those ad placements can become cumbersome.
Harris recognizes there are multiple spots to sell and says OSi’s single database platform makes it easier to stay organized and efficient.
“Traditionally, it’s been TV and maybe radio, now they have a lot more products to sell,” says Patrick. “They’ve got TV, radio, banner ads, streaming video and sponsorships on their website. In the past, the focus has been on operational efficiencies, and the OSi product line has led the industry to a single database and given flexibility to fully centralize traffic and billing operations as they grow their station groups.”
An update to OSi now lets users manage orders for banner advertising and also streaming media, such as a pre-roll ad on videos. “We’re trying to let people do more ad types with the same staff,” Criley says.
Harris’ NetGain product takes the advertising order information from all of those platforms and places it in a single database depository so stations understand how they can optimize their business.
At this year’s NAB Show, WideOrbit unveiled updates that included a new delivery dashboard, new airtime delivery features and deeper integration with WO Traffic to its WO Media Sales, a solution that lets stations manage ads across multiple platforms.
The ability to look at historical station ad data and be able to predict and give recommendations or alerts about what a client could expect is becoming a necessary tool, Patrick says.
Harris released updates to its NetGain solution at this year’s NAB Show that take product affinity metrics to help salespeople show the relationship between a product and, for example, a specific TV show. Patrick gave the example of trying to sell ads around an episode of Hawaii 5-0.
“There’s data you can analyze and present back to a client that shows, maybe, there’s an affinity between Ford Fusions and Hawaii 5-0,” he says. “Being able to show that and present that relationship back to the client is very useful.”
WideOrbit updated its software to provide a more seamless integration between WO Media Sales and WO Traffic, which delivers teal-time sellout levels to account executives and sales managers, letting them make decisions based on past data.