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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of September 3 - 9, 2003


Marketron nails broadcast ads control

NBC contract feather in its cap

Express Staff Writer

Marketron International builds software tools that help streamline and manage program scheduling and advertising space for broadcasting companies. In June, the 120 employees of Marketron‘s Hailey branch were mostly responsible for securing a key contract with the National Broadcasting Company, which has $1.5 billion in advertising revenues. NBC signed the seven-year. multi-million dollar deal to have Marketron revamp its operating systems.

"Broadcasters have a finite amount of inventory (airtime for commercials). We enable the operations side of the business to integrate different departments," said Marketron CEO Mike Jackson. "I have the title, but the kudos go to general manager Kristen Fechner, who has made the Hailey operation what it is."

"Our software helps stations make sure (ads) run when they should run at proper times on the right days," said Fechner. The company’s software also makes sure that advertisers are billed correctly, and it helps evaluate demographic information and ratings to help advertising salespeople lobby advertisers in a way that will fetch the best price for each slot.

Broadcasting has two sides and they are interdependent. Advertising is the backbone of a station’s ability to determine its programming content, and good programming boosts ratings, which attract advertisers, whether they’re soap companies or soft drink peddlers.

Producers provide program content. Business management ensures advertising dollars to pay for programming.

"Traffic managers" are people who facilitate scheduling of program content and commercials for stations. Companies using Marketron software also train business managers and advertising sales people on systems that integrate all aspects of a station’s operations.

Because advertising is the engine behind commercial television and radio, the group that airs the best ads on the best stations at the best times and reaches the right demographic for the product is bound to be the most profitable.

The ratings companies, Nielsen for television and Arbitron for radio provide broadcasters with the raw data about who is watching what when.

In popular markets it is possible to sell out inventory at any given time, therefore it is important to have the right ads run during children’s programs, for instance. Also, Marketron technology organizes data so two automobile advertisements don’t run back to back, said Fechner. "To do all this by hand in this day and age is impossible."

It is also Marketron’s business to help broadcasters decipher demographic information in the search for how to get the biggest bang out of limited airtime.

Marketron software helps manage all aspects of advertising sales from the first proposal to final billing, said Fechner. The software integrates all parts to make the process more efficient.

Marketron serves about 2,000 clients in the United States and Canada, split evenly between radio and television contracts. Cable companies comprise only a small part of the business. The NBC contract adds 29 stations to the Marketron’s roster, including all the NBC-owned Telemundo Spanish language stations NBC acquired last year. The company supplies at least one of its software management products to about 80 percent of the radio and television industry.

Although Marketron sells some of its products to public radio stations, its biggest market is the commercial broadcasting industry.

The conglomeration of media, a la Rupert Murdoch, has helped Marketron achieve much of its growth, said Fechner. But, because the company has been selling software to help stations manage their advertising sales since 1971, its experience in the industry is the biggest resource at its disposal.

"NBC is relentless in its pursuit of building the most efficient and effective broadcast organization," said John Wallace, senior vice president of broadcast operations for NBC. "We compared Marketron point-for-point against all the major TV traffic providers and the choice was clear. Only Marketron had the experience, infrastructure and advanced technology to enable NBC to achieve its strategic objectives."

Like many software companies, Marketron provides client hosted servers that are housed on the premises, but the company’s big innovation is providing remote access to application service providers.

Marketron feeds corporations like NBC with its management products via high-speed T1 fiber optic or copper cables. Private lines in the communications superhighway link New York City and Hailey directly to a farm of computer servers locked in an ATT operated Fort Knox-type complex complete with biometrics entry systems, armed security and back-up power near the redwood forest above Silicon Valley.

"It is different from the Internet where there are multiple on and off ramps," said Carpenter. Since a company like NBC has direct access to the professionals at Marketron, the approach to systems management allows broadcasters to free up their information technology department.

If a station chooses a Marketron, product field managers travel to the client’s offices to set up the system and begin training the users. The one thing Marketron does not do is manage programming content. But, as Marketron works to revolutionize the broadcast industry by removing the paper files linking various departments, the company expects to adapt its tools to aid in streamlining future programming as well, said Jackson.



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