By all appearances, TWC is the first MSO to take this key step, which allows a service provider’s advertising sales team to combine data from multiple order management and traffic systems into a single invoice for each advertiser. The NAGRA-OpenTV EclipsePlus/xG Billing system performs this billing integration based on each ad’s metrics and pricing for any type of ad campaign, says Paul Woidke, senior vice president and general manager for advanced advertising at NAGRA-OpenTV.
Such invoicing capabilities are essential to eventual integration of advertising across linear, on-demand, interactive, addressable, mobile, over-the-top and long-form modes of advertising, Woidke notes. “This is a really significant step,” he says.
“Right now today nobody is putting on-demand and linear advertising on the same invoice, let alone broadband or interactive,” he adds. “But if you’re going to be an operator that delivers advertising capabilities across multiple platforms you need to be able to roll up what happened in a way that makes sense to advertisers.”
TWC’s choice of the EclipsePlus/xG Billing platform comes as the two companies have renewed their long-standing deal under which the MSO has been using the vendor’s advanced advertising products for spot sales and other applications. The new billing system “supports our desire to serve our clients with a wide and varied portfolio of advertising solutions,” says Chris Faw, senior vice president of operations for Time Warner Cable Media. “It is a tremendous opportunity to simplify the billing and reporting process for our clients by seamlessly combining multiple advertising products onto a single invoice.”
NAGRA says its Eclipse line of campaign management solutions now schedules more than 100 million spots per month and manages more than $2.5 billion of annual advertising revenue. As the first next-generation component of the vendor’s EclipsePlus line of advanced advertising solutions, xG Billing “signifies operators are taking these applications out of the experimental arena into real advertising operations where real budgets are applied,” Woidke says.
“Operators have been experimenting with and getting their feet wet with creating new advertising revenue streams across the country,” he adds. “But to turn this into a real business one of the early requirements pushed by advertisers and agencies is to have the ability to consolidate all these campaigns for a given market or timeframe into a single invoice.”
It’s a big undertaking, given the varied types of data being collected from one mode of advertising to the next that must be aggregated and translated into a single manifest from across multiple delivery and insertion platforms. “You have linear with ratings points, online display with impressions, lead generation on interactive, telescoping click-throughs from on-
demand pre-rolls to long-form and much else,” Woidke says. “Our next-generation billing system takes all those different invoicing components and combines them so that an agency or advertiser can view them in one place.”
There’s much more to come now that things are moving beyond the experimental stage. “We’ll be releasing this year a next-generation VOD campaign management system, and there will be other next-gen components to handle broadband, addressable, linear and interactive,” Woidke says. “All those components will link together into the overall xG platform.”
TWC played a major role in triggering the move to xG Billing, he adds. “They came to us last year, and we began a conversation about the challenges they saw. They had very clearly in their mind how they saw on-demand and new technologies growing, and they said the story from the ad agencies was, if you want this business to grow, you need to do this [unified billing].”
Along with achieving unification of all the campaigns’ cost points on a single manifest NAGRA has made the xG Billing system a modular component that can work with other vendors’ scheduling, insertion and measurement systems. “It was essential that the consolidated invoice does not have to be created only from campaign management or from transaction and billing systems that NAGRA has built,” Woidke says.
“It doesn’t matter whether you schedule linear advertising with our EclipsePlus or some other platform and you schedule broadband ads through Dart or DoubleClick or something else,” he adds. “xG Billing can take information from any system and combine the data together. I imagine that, in the future, operators will extend this capability to mobile as well.”
Enabling this sort of cross-vendor interoperability requires deep insight into multiple proprietary platforms, he notes. “There are no standards in that space. Our ability to extract, transform and load data from other people’s systems into a common database is the proprietary component of what we’re bringing in.”
Woidke acknowledges that while there’s enough consistency regarding which types of metrics are used with various advertising modes to enable consistent reporting through a consolidated invoice, the industry has a long way to go in determining how some of the advanced advertising components are valued. “There are many issues to be resolved before we get to a common currency in this space,” he says.
“The next-generation billing platform doesn’t replace rating points or dictate how impressions should be calculated, and it doesn’t speak to viewership on iPads versus viewership on TV sets,” he says. “What it does say is if you have a tech provider for dynamic insertion in on-demand pre-rolls and someone else’s ad splicer for linear spots in traditional cable and your broadband provider like DoubleClick is going to give you information on click-throughs, we’ll take all that data and put it in one place with the appropriate metrics for each medium and present it in a way that’s useful for buyers.”