Cable has a long way to go in terms of processing big data and using the information to improve customer experiences, content and products, according to Bill Stratton, practice dir for SAS, a business analytics services company. “We’re not even in the 1st out of the 1st inning,” he said at a CTAM Summit panel Tuesday. Since processing big data is an “iterative” rather than linear way of making decisions, the intelligence informing them ultimately grows over time, he said.

Cable can learn from best practices in data mature industries like the airline, retail and financial services industries. But Time Warner Cable Media Sales pres Joan Gillman noted that cable is excelling at using data available on the Internet and social media to inform brand strategy. “I would rank us quite high in prioritizing and understanding the data from an operational point of view,” she said. Additionally, time spent with cable’s brands and reach on all platforms actually holds its own compared to Silicon Valley companies like Google and Facebook, she said, citing a study by the Cable Advertising Bureau.

What the industry needs to improve upon is making the data actionable in real time, Gillman said. The quicker cable companies adjust to the data and make rapid changes to campaigns, the better strategic partners they will become. She advised putting your clients first, working with them to form targeting strategies and be ready to discover things from the data that you might not have expected. “You absolutely have to be prepared for the data to tell you another story,” she said. But embracing it will make you a better leader.

From a programming perspective, said Stratton, big data is changing the process by which content is developed. The windows of conceiving, testing and greenlighting shows are starting to collapse as feedback during the process increases, he said. Ultimately, big data is a big deal. “It’s a game changer to be able to have data about your clients and your business… to see what’s working and what’s not working,” Gillman said. Stratton concurred: “Data is moving from an IT function to a business function.”

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