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Leslie Russell Comcast Media Center

The Comcast Media Center in suburban Denver was conceived by former Tele-Communications Inc. CEO John Malone as a platform for feeding digital TV signals to hundreds of cable headends. That’s still one of its main duties, but under Comcast Corp.’s ownership the CMC has expanded to encompass a range of digital-age activities. One of the latest is directed at the local cable advertising sector, where CMC VP of sales and marketing Leslie Russell thinks the prevailing practice of sending taggable network spots to affiliates via videotape and overnight delivery packages is hopelessly passé – and due to be supplanted.

Was this project born from a dialogue with your ad sales group, Comcast Spotlight?

In a way. They were the first ones to say, ‘Hey, can you help us out with this?’ But it has kind of grown to serving a bigger need in the industry. We’ve come up with the Ad Distribution Network – we’ve learned along the years to stay away from fancy names because all the good ones are taken – and primarily we’re focused on the cable programming networks, and posting their cross-channel spots and their ad-taggable spots.

How does it work?

If I’m an MSO, I log into an MSO-specific page. Essentially it comes up and gives the MSO all of the available networks that are actually posting spots to this site. It’s MSO-specific, so if for instance, OLN was doing a specific promotion with Comcast only, they could post a Comcast-specific spot. If I’m a Comcast AE, and I want to go in and see what E! has to offer, it brings up a thumbnail of all the spots E! has posted to the site. It gives a brief description of what it is, tells you if it’s taggable, and gives you the flight dates recommended. So as an AE I can go in and preview the spot.

And if it’s a taggable spot, then, you might show it to a client?

What’s intended is that the AE could download the spot onto their laptop and take the laptop out for a presentation. They go out and they sell the client, and they’d come back and download the high-resolution version right into the editing system. So I don’t have to call up and say, ‘Okay great, E!, I want that spot, send me a tape.’

The prevailing approach right now is, there’s literally a stack of tapes on somebody’s desk?

Yes. Whoever typically gets the spots at the system level – it could be an ad sales coordinator – has to compile them. What we’ve heard from the ad sales marketing director is that this portal replaces a stack of tapes in my office that sometimes I can find and sometimes I can’t find. And that stack is replicated in probably thousands of locations.

So who writes checks to you?

The networks. They’ll save money, plus it also gives them a capability to do more dynamic presentation and promotion of their network. It allows the network to be a little bit more spontaneous. As opposed to having to do quarterly reels and monthly reels.

What else is in it for the MSO side?

For an MSO, this system also has a reporting functionality. So if I’m an ad sales manager and I want to go in and see what my ad reps are downloading, or what I assume they’re taking out to sell, I can go on and see what’s going on by network, by spot, whether they previewed it or downloaded it, and who are the reps who did it. It could go as granular as a system or as wide as an MSO.

Are people using now?

Not yet. We recently completed a test with seven major programming groups. And four MSOs, one of which is Comcast, tested the service. Now we’ve just conducted field surveys and other research to see where we need to take it next before rolling it out in the fourth quarter.