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A Host for Stations' Sales Info

Traffic- and billing-systems provider Marketron has decided that the best way to serve its customers is to be the host with the most. Besides selling system software, Marketron provides hosting service for stations' traffic and billing functions, an approach the company says enables broadcasters to cut costs while increasing flexibility.

More than 2,000 media companies, according to Marketron, are retrieving their sales information from its servers, via its Application Service Provider (ASP) system.

"When an organization deploys a sales system in house, they need server hardware, dedicated desktop machines, and IT folks to maintain it," explains Director of Marketing Lauren Carpenter. "Add those together, and it's quite costly. And many IT people don't have expertise beyond things like Microsoft or operating systems."

Today's Marketron is a conglomerate of a number of other companies. Marketron was founded in 1972, and, in 2000, Online Media CEO and Chairman Mike Jackson (and now Marketron CEO and chairman) merged his company with Marketron. Later that year, Marketron acquired TvScan, a sales- and proposal-software company, and REP-PAK, a Canadian sales and proposal company, in 2001. More than 100 of the company's 240 people work in product development alone, according to Jackson.

"We want to use open standards and the latest technology," he says. "We support things like Linux and can also work with Microsoft's SQL database and IBM's DB2 digital library."

The work of its R&D team provides Marketron users with one new system and two updates every year. Version 5 is the latest.

In all product development, Jackson says, the important aspect is to make sure that the Marketron ASP allows stations to spend less time dealing with technology. "What stations do best is selling inventory and managing advertisers and programming," he says. "The ASP model allows us to host their information, which they access via the Internet."

The ASP also consolidates a station's information under one real-time database: Systems that require exporting and importing of databases from elsewhere in a station, Jackson explains, can lead to inaccuracies.

A new accounts-receivable function is designed to improve the product further. "It takes less than an hour for our system to close the books. Other systems can take longer," he says, "and, if there is a hiccup during the importing process, the user needs to start over."

Marketron's products are divided into two areas: Marketron TV Sales and Marketron TV Traffic. Each can be integrated with the other and provides a range of tools and reports, including competitive-analysis tools, automated inventory analysis, and automated reporting for station management.