By Scott Lanum, VP – Teleproduction Services
For years, advertisers ordered their TV spots to be mass-duplicated and shipped to hundreds of TV stations across the country. Production companies worked well into the morning hours with several machines dubbing to meet the next shipment cutoff time. The tide turned several years ago in the content distribution world and today, TV spots are digitized and sent to spot distribution clearing houses and reach their destinations electronically.
The past year has seen a great deal of change in this industry. Extreme Reach acquired its rival competitor, DG Systems. At the time of the merger, DG Systems “pushed” content to their hardware systems inside their destinations, while Extreme Reach used the cloud to deliver spots to stations and networks. Content from ER was “pulled down” by a request from the station. Basically this is a form of FTP service or File Transfer Protocol.
Several services like Drop Box and Hightail use FTP client servers to authenticate users via a username and password to protect the distribution of content. The user uploads a file, and a notification is sent to the intended recipient that a file is waiting for them to download. It’s pretty simple for users. If you have an entrepreneurial IT department within your company and a large enough Internet line into your building, you can build your own password-protected FTP spot distribution system for your customers and pass the cost savings along.
Some advertisers just do not have the budget to send HD spots to all of the desired stations because spot distribution companies bill by the spot delivered to each individual station. Even if there is only one spot to 100 stations, the distribution bill will reflect a unit price of 1 x 100. Imagine if you had the email addresses for the traffic departments at those 100 TV stations and you notified them that a spot was available for them to download from your FTP site? You could bill a monthly hosting fee, not necessarily for every individual spot delivered. That may save your clients tens-of-thousands-of-dollars per year.
The biggest advantage of using spot delivery companies is they guarantee your content has been delivered by means of a delivery conformation report, commonly referred to as a DCR. This is analogous to a signature on your FedEx or UPS package noting the time and person that received the package. But there are other forms of delivery that are just as dependable that don’t give the sender a confirmation of delivery: the U.S. Postal Service for one. Say what you will about the mail, but it does get to its destinations very reliably. I can make the same analogy for TV spot distribution companies versus hosted FTP services.
Some advertisers rely on their production company to make sure their spots get to the stations. To some, it really does not matter how the station gets their spot. Agencies know that their production company will worry about getting the spots in the traffic department’s hands, and make it right if they are not. For smaller agencies, the cost of distribution determines how much air time the advertiser can afford. That’s why finding a lower cost solution for spot distribution is so important. In a low cost spot distribution model, the advertiser plays a big role in lowering their costs. Today the advertisers are flexing their muscle by leveraging the media buy with the caveat that the stations will take the effort to download the spot. In other words, if the TV station wants to sell air time, they will work a little harder to make sure they have the spot. In this scenario, the stations become an active link in the distribution chain.
Today there are many great reasons to trust distribution companies with your spots. They will most certainly make sure that your spots are where they need to be, on time. Time is the biggest sensitivity. Most spot production timelines are actually back-timed from their distribution date. Any delay in shooting, editing or audio sweetening can push that date back by days. In these cases, the only way to get your spot out is by utilizing the big companies. On the other hand, when there is time in the production schedule to deliver spots to stations in a less urgent manner, other methods can definitely save the advertisers money and allow their budgets to go further.