Q&A: Harris Broadband’s Bill Carlton

Bill Carleton has nearly 30 years experience in the media advertising business including stints with Arbitron Ratings; local TV stations in New Orleans, Austin and San Antonio; LAN International, SeaChange and, for the last seven years, Harris Corp. He currently oversees the Harris Broadband business segment offering advertising business software solutions for cable MSOs and other multichannel advertising organizations. In his spare time, Carleton enjoys photography, horses, dirt bikes, ATVs and whatever other activities he can share with his wife and 10 children near Castle Rock, Colo. He recently spoke with K.C. Neel about the state of advanced advertising and some of the challenges the services create for traffic and billing operations. An edited transcript follows:

Q: Why do operators need to use separate traffic and billing systems for traditional and advanced avails?

A: It basically comes down to linear scheduling vs. non-linear scheduling. With linear ads, you simply put a spot on a specific channel at specific time. With VOD, it’s more about impression-based advertising and scheduling. It’s closer to the Web model. There are technological challenges as well as software challenges. But it’s really the user behavior that’s different from linear ad models.

Q: Are operators beginning to come together on how they are offering clients advanced advertising opportunities?

A: Project Canoe is all about cable operators coming together to promote information metrics and interfaces. On the other hand, organizations such as SCTE and CableLabs are also working on technological equations to solve some of the issues facing advanced advertising services. They are all making progress, but no one knows which model will actually survive. Canoe is a longer-term solution for the industry.

Q: What is the biggest hurdle with advanced advertising services today -- software, hardware?

A: The industry is so embryonic at this point that it’s difficult to value the data that is being gathered. There will be a lot of discussions and opinions about that for a long time. We have found ways to shoehorn cable into broadcast software packages. But it’s ludicrous to assume you can do that with advanced services. There are hardware, software and execution issued to be hammered out and, oh by the way, there’s the question of whether anyone will make any money on all this. The advertising and MSOs communities must agree on a valuation metric. What’s a click worth? I think there will be a three-to-five year cycle for advanced advertising services to really take off. Linear television watching and linear advertising isn’t going to go away either and it will provide telescoping opportunities for addressable ads.

Q: What is Harris Corp. doing these days to address advanced advertising T&B issues?

A: We have a two-pronged approach on how we approach this issue. We are currently modifying our existing software to meet operators’ immediate needs but it clearly not a long-term solution. We are also creating campaign management software to bring diverse advertising mechanisms together. It will sit on top of our existing software. We expect to have the first phase of that software available next summer.