Tackling Content Traffic

Jul 14, 2003  •  Post A Comment

TV station traffic system provider WideOrbit wants to leverage its position as a growing software firm to help station groups reduce costs by solving the key technical challenges facing them now and over the next few years.
To do that, the San Francisco-based company has formed the WideOrbit Advanced Technology Committee, which, using four initial station groups, will identify and tackle crucial broadcast technology issues. After developing successful practices, the committee can disseminate the best solutions to the industry. The founding members are The New York Times Co., Liberty Group, McGraw-Hill and Meredith.
Eric Mathewson, founder and CEO of WideOrbit, is shepherding the committee’s development, and he expects the group will expand to include other station groups and sectors, like rep firms. Since traffic is the backbone for most of the financial transactions within the station, a traffic provider is logical to lead the group, Mr. Mathewson said.
The group will address issues such as how to pass information between traffic and master control in a high-definition world; how broadcasters can deliver targeted ads based on ZIP codes so they can compete with local cablers in this regard; and how to develop a centralized system for programming intake, thus enabling stations to reduce headcount, he said.
Traffic Tip
The traffic system can be a springboard for rethinking numerous business processes that have not evolved much over the past 25 years, said Frank Chebalo, senior VP of operations and engineering with The New York Times Co.
“We’re evolving into digital television, and as we look down the conduit in a few years we will certainly reach mass numbers in terms of digital viewing,” he said. “So attached to the traffic system, we can look at ways in which we handle syndicated programming, commercials.”
Traditionally, stations have received syndicated shows and commercials individually. The opportunity exists to ingest programming centrally and then distribute it to the different stations using the traffic system as the hub of that process, he said. “The intention of the committee is to continue to bring up issues we are plagued with and to simplify them and make them more efficient at a time when I believe the industry calls for greater and more efficiency.”
Standard Delivery
Another issue is the distribution of programming content, which usually arrives by satellite, fiber, broadband or even by a bicycle delivery person wielding a tape. Mr. Chebalo would like to see the consortium find a means of standardization for content delivery, such as relying on a digital delivery system like Pathfire.
“When it gets to a destination at the station, it should seamlessly flow into traffic and play out without human intervention,” he said.
A station’s traffic system can also be the focal point for resolving other issues, such as the timing of spots and programming. “Maybe you hire a third party to do all the timing for all the stations that are part of a consortium and e-mail all those times out so it’s done once,” Mr. Mathewson said.
A group like WideOrbit ATC will likely have its greatest impact if it can devise a set of common business practices that stations can share, said Ardell Hill, senior VP of broadcast operations at Media General.