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Profile: Bruce Roberts

Nov 4, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Title: President, WideOrbit in San Francisco
Background: Mr. Roberts joined WideOrbit, which provides traffic, sales and billing systems to broadcasters, in 2000. He previously worked for KGO-TV in San Francisco as a general sales manager in the late ’90s and also served as a sales manager at Los Angeles station KABC-TV.
The new kid on the block: Founded in 1999, WideOrbit is the latest player to offer a software system for traffic, sales and billing automation for TV stations. WideOrbit competes directly with entrenched firms such as Encoda and VCI and with newer entrant OSI. Mr. Roberts was intimately familiar with older, legacy sales systems from his time in the sales departments at local stations, and believed there had to be a better way to input and extract data. “Traffic managers needed more immediate access to data in the system in pricing, inventory,” he said.
A new kind of system: The WideOrbit solution includes a fully integrated front-end sales system, Mr. Roberts said. The system allows users to look forward to make inventory and sales projections rather than simply look back for a historical perspective. “Other software systems are great rear-view mirrors,” he said. “None allow you to look out the windshield and see what is coming down at you. We let [stations] know how each daypart will be affected and we measure the demand that it will place on their inventory through daypart, weeks, ratings points, dollars.
“What we’re trying to say is when you look out the windshield, take a 360-degree view. Look at the whole marketplace. What we are trying to determine is the holding capacity of the market.” This forward-looking perspective ultimately helps a broadcaster generate more revenue because it allows a station to price its inventory according to the market demand, he said.
Belt-tightening: Business opportunities are getting tougher for broadcasters and margins are harder to maintain, Mr. Roberts said. “I think if a software company is doing the job right, they can help maintain or increase the margins.” WideOrbit’s system allows stations to reduce head count, gain efficiency and increase revenues, he said, and some stations have been able to reduce head count by 20 percent in the traffic department by implementing WideOrbit’s system.