OK, so Viamedia isn’t a technology firm per se. But its savvy application of technology to step up the traditional advertising game would make anyone in Silicon Valley proud. With a 24/7 operations center in Lexington, KY, Viamedia’s real-time monitoring boasts a 99.9% run rate and includes headend testing every single minute. That monitoring covers 130 zones in 57 markets, representing a whopping 5,848 networks. And its multiplatform ad insertion capabilities (in partnership with Invidi) continue to set the bar. Viamedia works with 41 distributors, big and small. So, yeah… we feel pretty good about a tech award for these guys.
“The biggest thing is our flexibility and technical integration,” says Viamedia CEO Jeff Carter. “The level of sophistication runs from the hardest market in the country—New York—to some extremely small markets in some extremely small DMAs.”
And while Viamedia has many small op clients, it works with some pretty large MSOs as well, including Time Warner Cable and Verizon—and it also plays in the digital pre-roll universe with clients like Google. With second screen devices proliferating, Viamedia’s got its hands in everything. “As the industry becomes more fragmented and more agnostic about the device that an advertiser can be seen on, we’re going to have to be able to accommodate all those devices, and we’re going to have to be device agnostic as well,” says Carter.
Carter cautions, however, that when it comes to multiplatform, the learning curve continues for the industry and for advertisers. “Technology changes so fast, I’m not sure we could ever say that we’re ready to go,” he says. “But we’re in a position to make ready to go. All of these changes in technology require a tremendous amount of work on our parts, our vendors’ parts, advertisers’ parts.” The bottom line: Viamedia bases all its decision on what advertisers want. Period. “You have to figure out how best to serve the advertiser, and once you get that going, then the other pieces kind of start falling into place,” he says.
Viamedia’s advertiser focus has helped it to hone its technology and fine-tune its entire technology strategy. And the company pitches its close ties to Madison Avenue as a factor that benefits clients of any size. “We have the same fundamental research and marketing and technical capabilities in Jackson, Tennessee, as we do in New York,” says Carter. “And when we turn on a system, that happens from day one. There’s not a ramp up period or a learning period. There’s a plug and play. We have that expertise.” Viamedia was actually the first ad rep firm to insert an ad over an IP stream (with SureWest in Sacramento) and the first to sell ads on a set-top box level on a DMA basis (with Verizon in Providence, R.I.).
Operators we contacted sang Viamedia’s praises, especially when it comes to offloading the complicated ad business so they can focus on their own day-to-day operations. “With Viamedia’s company-wide commitment to advertising-client research, in-depth experience of the industry and centralized traffic approach, we feel our advertising clients are getting a well-rounded solution to help their businesses grow,” says Peter C. Smith, WOW!’s svp, programming & advertising sales. Viamedia handles WOW!’s advertising in 15 different markets. Jaime Montes, SureWest’s senior manager, content acquisition & digital TV, says Viamedia just “makes sense” and “inserts seamlessly in both our analog and IPTV networks.”
Of course, Carter says challenges remain in hot areas like VOD dynamic ad insertion. “There’s a lot of talk on VOD pre-roll,” he says. “There’s a lot of interest there. But there are significant challenges because a lot of the programmers haven’t made those pre-rolls available… That situation has to be worked out.” Once that happens, Carter predicts audience expansion as VOD evolves into more of an “incremental value play.” As for the future, Carter points to all the new players trying to invade cable’s turf, including Apple and its rumored multichannel service, Microsoft as the Xbox shifts to a media hub and, of course, Google as it rolls out fiber in various cities. “I think we’re in for a pretty fun ride over the next five or six years,” says Carter. We don’t doubt it.
– Michael Grebb