TVB's E-Business System To Go Live In November

Despite potential fits and starts, an e-business platform for spot buying is on schedule to launch in November, officials reaffirmed Tuesday.

The "TVB ePort" system will allow buyers to submit orders to stations electronically within the next two months. It will then ramp up early next year to facilitate the paperless buyer-seller exchanges of proposals, invoices, revisions, makegoods and other stewardship operations--as well as purchases of multi-platform inventory such as station Web sites and mobile extensions.

TVB--the Television Bureau of Advertising trade group that represents station operators--announced the development of ePort seven months ago, promising the fall launch. Delivering on the timeline is no small feat in the e-business arena, where delays and technological hurdles often are the norm.

Some $5 million was raised to develop the system, which covers national and local spot activities--$2 million from the National Association of Broadcasters and the rest from the station operators and rep firms. The "investors" believe that faster, more user-friendly electronic transactions will grease the spot business and please an often-overburdened buy-side (some media buyers can spend two-thirds of their time on stewardship duties). The system is free to agencies and advertisers.

Kathleen Keefe--vice president of sales at Hearst-Argyle, who joined TVB representatives (and others) at an Advertising Week event Tuesday to discuss ePort--said the current process is "so cumbersome," and the goal is to "make spot TV an easy medium to purchase." She said executing a single order for a presence on a station Web site takes 22 steps, which ePort could dramatically reduce.

TVB has signed some 32-plus station groups encompassing about 400 stations, which are ready to receive electronic orders for Q1 2008 when ePort launches. Major rep firms Katz and Blair, as well as from the Big 4 networks' O&Os--are committed to using the system as well. TVB ePort--which could impact about 75% of the spot-buying business--will offer what's referred to as an "open standard" where e-business can take place throughout the advertiser-agency-station-and-rep firm loop, even if various parties use different systems in their own in-house operations.

In addition to Hearst-Argyle, the 32 station groups include Belo, Gannett and Meredith.

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