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Cable Networks’ E-Biz Initiative Up and Running

It was only a trickle of electronic data flowing across a network, but a recent collaboration between A&E Television Networks and the media-buying agency Universal-McCann could set the stage for big improvements in the way cable networks and agencies do business.

That’s according to the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau (CAB), which today said a new “e-business” initiative for managing cable network advertising activity is ready for prime time. CAB has led the drive to bridge communication between agencies and cable networks through an electronic system.

Using a platform developed by Donovan Data Systems, the cable network and Universal McCann were able to communicate live changes to a media buy. The effort marks the first real-world instance to stem from a behind-the-scenes effort to ease the job of keeping up with advertising order changes.

“We’ve been working for years to be able to send changes electronically. And this is the first time that it has been done,” said Danielle DeLauro, VP Sales and Marketing for the CAB.

The e-business initiative follows last week’s announcement that CAB won’t participate in further trials of a cable advertising “exchange system” developed by Internet-commerce titan eBay. In part, it’s thought cable networks didn’t want to relinquish some control of the ad selling process .

Until now, most changes to cable network advertising schedules, rates and buys have been made the old-fashioned way: by fax or e-mail. That produces lots of duplicated efforts – and frequent paperwork discrepancies – because people at both the network and the ad agency sides are entering the same data. “There’s double-entry, so it adds more time that could be spent doing other things,” said DeLauro. She said discrepancies and time-sapping corrections should virtually be eliminated going forward as agencies and cable networks instead make changes electronically.

DeLauro believes the introduction of the new approach puts national cable networks ahead of broadcast TV network rivals in the emerging e-business realm. “We can do this and the broadcast networks cannot yet,” she said.

The new system integrates agencies and cable networks through a secure electronic pipeline that makes use of an enhanced version of Donovan’s widely deployed Steward software. DeLauro said CAB and cable networks also are working with the 4As, an advertising agency collective, to make the same type of electronic integration possible universally, over other agency software platforms. A broad group of national cable networks are joining AETN in deploying the new e-business platform, along with major media-buying groups including MPG, MindShare, Initiative, Maxus, Carat and Mediaedge:cia.