I’ll admit it, I’m still having a hard time referring to this year’s gathering of industry executives in Chicago as “INTX: The Internet & Television Expo.” But, I get it; it cannot be the “Cable Show” because it isn’t just about just cable and hasn’t been for a long time. Just look at the agenda and you will see topics such as Excellence Everywhere: Best Practices in TVE Marketing and Implementation (moderated by Cablefax’s Mike Grebb and Kaylee Hultgren) that stretch well beyond the boundaries of cable plant.
Of course, the show’s attention has been focused on integrating new platforms into the industry’s business model for many decades. In the mid-1970s, adding satellite-delivered programming was a hot topic. Way back in the 1980s we were breaking the bounds of linear television with pay-per-view and adding data communications, cable telephony, and even home security. I think I still have a magnet from MediaOne that says, “This is broadband, this is the way.”
To paraphrase Ted Turner’s variation of a popular country song by Barbara Mandrell, “Cable was the Internet before the Internet was cool.”
An ongoing challenge as the business model has evolved is in integrating the back-office support and billing systems. For example, it wasn’t just about implementing the technology to enable premium channels or PPV; there had to be a way to track and bill for them.
Fast forward to today and these challenges can seem overwhelming. Whether it is in implementing solutions to monetize customer access to TV Everywhere or to aggregate cross-platform audience data for advertisers, companies are constantly looking to integrate data from multiple facets of their operations. As one industry executive expressed to Imagine Communication’s Sarah Foss, “I now spend more time planning how all of my systems work together than driving efficiencies across my business.”
The observation, which Foss has been hearing a lot lately, prompted her to comment during a recent industry presentation that the software systems are so challenging that the only solution is to huddle experts from the various silo departments in a conference room to solve the “communication challenges” that their software systems cannot. One of the CIOs attending her session approached Foss afterwards and asked, “Have you been spying on our company? This is exactly what we do today!”
Given her knowledge of the software integration challenges facing the industry today, we asked Foss to share some insights that would be helpful to our members, who often have the final word on which solutions their companies decide to purchase. Because they relate so well to the conversations that you may be having with software solutions providers at INTX, I wanted to pass along a few of her top-line recommendations on what to expect from your software solutions providers:
- Current and Future Revenue – Vendors of good systems should be able to articulate what their technology can do today and outline the ongoing investments they will make in order to support your needs for years to come.
- Agility – In today’s unpredictable world, your system must be agile. Vendors need to consistently monitor the changes in the business environment and provide your business with solutions that allow you to zig and zag with the market as the omni-platform environment evolves.
- Service-based. All of your software systems should include service agreements. This will marry your vendor-partner to your business. In addition, having regular, on-site engagement will help to ensure your systems are being optimized and your staff is exposed to ongoing training, best practices and large industry initiatives.
- Open/Easily Integrated. Today’s media ecosystem requires bidirectional data exchanges from multiple systems simultaneously. Systems can be opened by using rock-solid APIs (application program interface), which serve as language translators from one software system to another.
- Aligned with your goals– Systems partners need to have skin in your game, helping you to drive growth, cost-efficiencies and better performance. Replacing revenue-sharing and license based models, the new relationships should provide upside for the supplier tied to your goals and objectives.
You can read more of Foss’ recommendations in the March-April issue of our Association’s magazine; a digital copy will be available on our website for a couple more weeks.
As the agenda for every year’s gathering of cable industry executives reminds us, business models are constantly adapting to a changing world. Fortunately, we can count on conferences like INTX and Media Finance Focus 2015, the 55th annual conference for MFM and its BCCA subsidiary, to help us blaze our way in the new frontier.