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NBC’s Spot Solution

May 19, 2003  •  Post A Comment

In September NBC will pioneer a technology solution for spot management that will put into practice what will still be on the drawing board at many station groups and broadcasters for the past few years.
The new system, one of the first of its kind, is designed to make spot ordering more user-friendly. NBC and its technology partner MediaOcean have kept the development plans under wraps for the past few years and are now nearing the final testing stages before the fall implementation at NBC’s 14 owned-and-operated stations.
The system will allow for a seamless exchange of information between advertising agencies and TV stations, replacing a process that has largely been done by hand, on spreadsheets and through bits and pieces of disparate systems.
NBC has been working with software company MediaOcean, a Donovan Data Systems company, to devise a computerized system that links advertising agencies and stations electronically to track the process of spot order entry, to replace manual entry and reconciliation and to save time for salespeople at local broadcast stations.
NBC tested the system at its Columbus, Ohio, O&O WCMH-TV in April and plans to begin the rollout to its other stations in the fourth quarter. Its Telemundo O&Os are to follow next year.
“The goal right now is for us to do two-way transactions with our agencies to hopefully not only bring value to them and to take some cost out of their operations [but to] make things easier,” said John Wallace, senior VP broadcast operations at NBC TV stations. “[We can] transact with our customers electronically and have our two systems always in sync with each other, so at the end of the day when the spot has run and we invoice the agency, they can look at it and have it exactly as it has run on the air. That’s a capability that has not been available in the spot world,” he said.
The Web-based system allows the sales rep to develop a proposal and send it to the agency electronically. The order is then fed back and forth throughout the negotiation process. Once finalized, the station hits “Approve” and the spot information enters the station’s traffic system. MediaOcean continues to track the spot throughout its life span. If a spot is preempted, for instance, that information flows from the traffic system to MediaOcean to the agency.
The system will allow consistency in a world where salespeople have traditionally worked in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, on various proposal systems and, in famous station lore, on the backs of cocktail napkins.
The majority of broadcast groups are in discussions with various vendors to upgrade and modernize their systems to facilitate better communication between buyers and sellers, said Chris Rohrs, president of the Television Bureau of Advertising.
MediaOcean does not replace the traditional negotiation process between buyer and seller, said Ray Heacox, CEO of MediaOcean who previously worked at NBC as general manager of KNBC-TV and as executive VP sales for the station group. “You make sales calls as you have done before, so once the buyer determines what the order is going to be, they put it in their system,” he said.
Making the Connection
During the first phase of the rollout, MediaOcean will interface with Dare from Donovan, the prevalent system on the buy side. MediaOcean and NBC will work on linking with Donovan’s competitors so that the MediaOcean system can eventually connect into any agency’s buy system. MediaOcean has talked to other broadcasters about the system but has not yet begun beta testing at other groups.
A number of products in the market do portions of what the MediaOcean system does, but not all of it, Mr. Heacox said.
Marketron’s TVScan is a sales, proposal and research system that includes a service called Web Avails to send proposals to agencies electronically through a partnership with Donovan.
Media software company WideOrbit, a provider of traffic systems for broadcasters, is developing WO Proposer, a research and sales proposal system that will be available early next year.