Land of opportunity

In today's broadcast industry, media workflows and the business models that accompany them are rapidly changing. On the revenue side, it is clear that the media sales landscape is in a period of significant change. Across most European countries, traditional linear advertising still commands more than 90 percent of television advertising revenue, but the growth rate is slowing. In order to retain viewers and maximize revenue, media organizations have been creating more opportunities for viewers to watch their content by launching additional linear channels; moving into new media platforms such as VOD, streaming Internet/mobile video, and expanding into new regions and emerging markets.

The revenue associated with new media platforms is currently small, but the revenue and audience share is growing faster than the traditional television advertising market.

Technological and corporate disruption in media distribution is commonplace. The ways media is selected by and delivered to consumers is changing rapidly, and players from all of the sectors on the classical media distribution value chain (content creators, aggregators and distributors) are making moves to reach consumers in new and innovative ways.

Media consumption and advertising

On the consumer side, it is clear that exciting changes are not limited to the delivery chain. Improving technology and higher quality options are engaging consumers in interesting new ways, but even the act of media consumption itself is evolving. It is clear that there is a rapid evolution of new media consumption trends involving multiple devices.

Using multiple devices (such as TVs, tablets, phones, laptops and eReaders) while consuming media is already a norm and will form a significant part of the media sales battleground going forward. However, it is also true to say that the core business of transactional TV viewing and advertising is still hugely influential (and dominant in real terms), especially when coupled with associated business models such as promotions, sponsorships, interactivity, product placement and more.

So, consumption patterns are fluid and dynamic, while media workflows and business models that accompany them are rapidly changing. Within media organizations (the airtime sales, traffic, program planning, scheduling, acquisitions and operations departments), it is clear that the media landscape is in a period of significant change. These departments need to work more efficiently and collaborate more closely than ever to handle additional volumes of channels, programs, commercials and material while minimizing their cost to the organization.

As one of the most prolific emerging consumption routes, VOD (in its many forms) is a major part of the delivery portfolio of nearly every major player in media. Consumption via VOD is continuing to grow. At the same time, it has not significantly degraded linear broadcaster or ad engagement, but has in fact increased consumer satisfaction and has helped to build overall audience.

Ad sales and scheduling

So, with media change a given alongside a strong traditional advertising core, scheduling, sales, automation and digital asset management systems are evolving to support current and emerging business models for a wide range of broadcasters and sales houses across Europe.

In the media sales and scheduling environments, carefully balancing the need to support efficient workflows in traditional and new media models with the need to be able to handle complex cross platform campaigns and schedules is core to the capabilities of the ideal system. The strongest sales operations are able to join up cross media sales and offer buyers coherent campaigns in a simple way, while remaining focused on the core value of the linear ad sales offerings.

At its heart, the ideal system needs to optimize existing sales and scheduling workflows, as well as help operations implement them faster and better, with less manual intervention. Automated capabilities throughout the system are base requirements for a sales and scheduling solution to meet the European market expectations. These automated capabilities include predicted ratings management, optimized spot placement based on target audience demographics, as-run processing across multiple channels, copy allocation and management, optimized promotion planning and placement, electronic trading of campaign and copy information with agencies, program scheduling based on sophisticated templates and rules, program versions and material allocation based on channel service requirements, and synchronized linear and nonlinear schedules.

Adherence to regional trading regulations

As media organizations grow regionally, it is also vital for the ideal system to handle local sales trading methodologies and regulations. Within Europe, countries follow different trading models (such as spot-based sales, line-based sales and ratings-based sales), and a solution that caters to multiple methodologies allows organizations to manage their advertising in a single system across the continent. A single system across multiple markets simplifies the media organization's support costs, gives a quick view into the entire business and allows the organization to easily and more cost-effectively share resources.

It is important to note that certain European markets sell and trade not minutes of advertising time or numbers of spots, but impacts or impressions associated with viewing commercials. This capability needs to be a core foundation of a strong European-wide sales system so that it can optimize, steward and manage the placement of commercials based on predicted ratings and campaigns targets.

Exploiting the new media landscape

The ideal solution needs to embrace the new media landscape by allowing consolidation of the programming content as well as the wide range of sellable items into coherent centralized campaigns and schedules. Sharing of content between linear and nonlinear platforms is key to simplifying the management of a variety of platforms and allowing the organization to target as many viewers as possible for its content. More viewers mean more revenue from advertisers or transactional revenue. Within linear television, seamlessly embracing secondary events and product placement and enabling the cross media sell are key to success.

The widespread introduction of part or full digital-based transmission in the past few years has introduced both opportunities and challenges. The opportunities build on the concept that content stored as digital media enables much simpler reformatting when in a multiplatform environment, making it much more widely available within the organization. For the first time, for instance, it becomes practical for schedulers to review the transmission schedules they have created before transmission actually takes place. Sales traffic staff can review the flow of commercial breaks. Content editing — to adjust timings, establish commercial breaks or edit for content — can now be done on standard desktops rather than employing expensive tape-based editing equipment. And the results of the edits can be updated to the master content databases that most stations use, enabling early communication to all parts of the organization.

Furthermore, content can be moved to transmission servers quickly, automatically and at a later point in transmission, enabling more effective “just-in-time” scheduling. Among other benefits, this makes last-minute or targeted spot sales more achievable.

However, to achieve such benefits, the various teams and processes traditionally in place within an organization need to be tied much more closely together. Scheduling, sales, rights acquisition and library operations can no longer sit in isolation from those teams who are reviewing, creating and editing the content that they will use, nor from those who are managing the transmission itself.

An integrated solution requires an appropriately featured digital asset management system to ingest content from tape or from an external feed, and which offers content editing, media movement between servers, and effective preview (browsing) of the created media. The sales/scheduling/rights management system must be able to integrate effectively with the asset management system.

In addition, the scheduling system should be able to give instructions to the asset management system about what to ingest, it must be able to view and edit content, and it must be able to give instruction to move media to and from the transmission server. The two systems must be kept completely synchronized so that they both have exactly the same file names and the same timing information, and so that they are both able to identify the location of each piece of media.

When such integration has been achieved, the organization is able to define operational workflows that straddle systems (often initiated from within scheduling and actioned in asset management), reducing the risk of operating error, ensuring that content is tracked from receipt (through preparation and on to transmission), and enabling more effective transmission because the whole team can review and check content.

Standards-based communication

Sales/scheduling, digital asset management and transmission need to be regarded as three essential parts of the management of delivery, and they all need to integrate with each other.

There is an increased need to be able to make late changes in schedules, and also to reduce the cost of transmission. An important part of this strategy is the movement of more control upstream from transmission to scheduling. This enables transmission decisions to be made that take full account of the commercial consequences of such decisions. For instance, if additional commercial time becomes available, which spots would best be used? If a program needs to be changed, what should it be replaced with?

In the new media environment, the solution is to enable schedulers to see what is being transmitted as it happens. Applications can use the industry-standard BXF communication protocol to keep both the schedule and the transmission synchronized. (See Figure 1.) Both sides can change a schedule, but the other will know immediately.

This new technology also enables schedulers to know quickly if a spot had to be dropped and to determine whether it could still be played the same day, thus avoiding penalties incurred from the advertiser.

In conclusion, we can say that the new media landscape is a land of opportunity. A core driver needs to be innovation. In the search for new revenue upsides, solutions need to help create new revenue opportunities and handle innovative new sales models such as targeted advertising on multiple platforms.

Martin Davies is Media Management Solutions Product Line Manager at Harris Broadcast Communications.