The fight among the handful of firms that provide Web solutions to TV stations is a particularly bloody one. It’s something of a zero-sum game: Inking a deal to handle a station’s contentmanagement system, sales or video almost always means taking the business away from another firm.
But this sharp-elbows world is a familiar one for Broadcast Interactive Media (BIM) co-founder/CEO Timur Yarnall, who gave as good as he got as an All- American rugby player at Stanford. BIM scored big strategy points when it acquired TitanTV in February; besides getting Titan’s ubiquitous online programming guides, the deal opened the doors to Titan’s hundreds of station clients.
“It’s given us a ton more relationships to sell into, so all of a sudden we went from 150 clients to over 900 stations,” Yarnall says. “It’s been a great entree.”
BIM’s online clients include the Belo, Granite, Fisher and NBC Local Media groups, along with various newspaper and radio sites. Yarnall launched BIM in 2002 after getting a look at the burgeoning local online space while at the Web outfi t Clickability. Yarnall co-founded Clickability in 1999 with some old Stanford rugby mates, and saw how big the local side of the business could be. (Local advertising is expected to reach $133.3 billion this year, according to BIA/Kelsey.)
“I saw there was incredible opportunity in local, particularly with television,” he says. “There were very few providers who seemed to be helping stations produce text and video content. It seemed there was an incredible opportunity to win in this space.”
Winning won’t be easy, as the likes of WorldNow, Internet Broadcasting (IB) and Inergize Digital enjoy the backing of major station groups and offer their own batch of innovative online services. Yarnall aims to set BIM apart with not only clean, fast-loading sites and smooth video delivery, but a wide portfolio of unique products such as the usergenerated content platform YouNews and the BIMLocal Ad Network, which amasses content from myriad Websites and matches it with national advertisers.
Station clients say BIM’s contentmanagement system (CMS) allows everyone in the newsroom to publish content quickly and easily, instead of just a couple of “Web guys.” Furthermore, the CMS isn’t one-size-fits-all, meaning it’s easily customizable for stations in markets of all sizes within the same group.
Belo switched to the BIM platform last year after years of managing its sites internally. Traffic and revenue are up in the double digits compared to Belo’s recent internal efforts. “The technology Timur provides is far and away better than the competition’s,” says Belo Senior VP of Media Operations Kathy Clements. “He’s done everything he said he’d do—he’s been there every step of the way.”
NBC Local Media partnered with BIM on its splashy online relaunch late in 2008, which saw its 10 station sites recast as urban hipster destinations under the “Locals Only” banner. The BIM team came to Chicago to train the WMAQ staff for the NBCChicago. com launch—Chicago was first in the group—and has been working closely with the NBC O&Os ever since. “They know local television and the digital space, and they know how to marry the two and build products that work,” says NBC Local Media VP of Digital Media Operations Lora Le Sage. “Timur was passionate about local before it became trendy.”
Yarnall splits time between BIM’s Madison, Wis., base and its New York office. He married playwright Kimberly Megna last year; a Notre Dame grad, she and Timur attended the Stanford-Notre Dame football game in South Bend Sept. 25. After his college rugby exploits, Yarnall went on to win a national championship with the Belmont Shore (Calif.) club in the U.S.’s elite “Super League” competition in 1998, but put rugby on hold when Clickability—and then BIM—took off.
Eluding the big bruisers with speed and agility, Yarnall knocks heads with a Madison rugby team now and then, but is more focused on wrapping his brain around growing BIM’s role in the ever-changing local digital space. “Continued evolution,” Yarnall says, “is the name of the game.”
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.