By using Internet-based distribution networks for sending on-air promotional content to cable system affiliates, cable programming networks are finding that going green can also save them a lot of green.

The traditional method for sending advertising and cross-channel promotional spots involves placing the spots on videotape and then sending via mail to members of the ad sales and marketing teams for cable operators as well as regional and division MSO offices. In many cases, two versions are sent to each location. Each market receives one or more half- or three-quarter-inch or VHS tapes, or possibly a DVD, for previewing by the local marketing and ad sales departments, and a beta version suitable for the on-air broadcast. To control their dubbing and shipping expenses, many networks compile their upcoming promotions onto reels that are dubbed and shipped every quarter.

When you consider there are more than 500 national TV networks and over 8,100 cable systems, millions of tapes are potentially being dubbed and shipped across the country, every three months. In addition to thinking about the sheer volume of plastic and film required for making all of these videotapes, consider the energy being spent to create those materials, transferring content onto the tapes and then shipping them to multiple locations nationwide.

Enter Electronic Distribution Networks
Even better ecological news than how these tapes are being re-used and recycled is how their use is being replaced in the digital age.

But how do content providers manage distribution over the Internet to an IP address instead of over Interstate highways using a mailing address?

Enter electronic content distribution networks. At the core of the network is a content management center that receives the on-air spot via the Internet. In addition to receiving the spot, the encoding, metadata and hosting requirements for each video (see diagram) is managed by the center via an online portal that allows cable systems to preview and download the spots.

In the case of the Ad Distribution Network (ADN) managed by the Comcast Media Center, the portal is customized for participating cable system operators. This allows the programming networks the ability to maintain their customization by affiliate, regionally or nationally without expending the energy dubbing and shipping spots on physical tape stock.

Marketing and ad sales personnel at a local cable system can log onto the password-protected site and search the creative available for their use. The search functionality can help them to identify upcoming promotions by network, then by date or a particular programming genre, like sports. Data reports allow executives at the programming networks and cable MSO headquarters to track which spots have been previewed and downloaded.

The ADN portal hosts both high-resolution and low-resolution versions of each campaign spot. The cable system can download the broadcast quality version to their local editing suites. Local ad sales departments can download the lower resolution files onto their laptops or other portable devices for use in sales presentations.

Saving Resources, Saving Time
In addition to representing a substantial savings in natural resources, electronic distribution networks like ADN save many hours of time required for the traditional dub and ship method. Moreover, they allow programming networks and other advertisers with a much faster way for updating the promotional content that can be aired on local cable systems, anywhere in the country and potentially the world. Instead of planning which TV series or special to promote months in advance, they can seize late-breaking opportunities to create dynamic advertising messages reflective of their program offerings.

End–to-End Energy Savings
Offices that use to have stacks of tapes as high as a desk can also shed the TV monitors, VTRs and DVD players used for viewing them. In addition, a growing number of offices are replacing desktop PCs and CRT monitors with energy-efficient PCs and LCDs.

File-to-file transfers have been achieving similar results in many other aspects of our marketing operations for several years now. Remember when we used to ship customer and billing data on huge discs protected by large metal cases? Now, thanks to electronic distribution networks for our video content, we can also move the process for transporting our promotional videos into the digital age.

To read about other companies’ green practices, buy min’s new guidebook, Going Green: Outstanding Green Business Practices.

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