Media Finance Focus Show Takes On Media Workflow Automation


NEW ORLEANS — From musings and observations on the state of the American electorate from James Carville to the local TV industry’s efforts to automate the workflow on both the buy and sell sides, the first day of the Media Finance Focus 2019 conference proved to be insightful and entertaining.

It was automation, and how AI will reshape the workforce of the future while blockchain technology becomes more commonplace, that is perhaps the biggest topic of interest at this annual event presented by MFM and BCCA.

“Everybody wants the workflow to be more efficient, both on the sell side and on the buy side,” notes Rick Ducey, Managing Director of BIA Advisory Services. Culture has much to do with this, he says, pointing to the nature in which broadcast TV and radio companies operate.

How TV competes with other media — and the FCC’s 2018 Quadrennial Review of its local media ownership rules — is integral to the competitiveness of broadcast media, Ducey believes. As such, ad spend in local media in a marketplace reality where programmatic and digital media are taking dollars away from TV and radio could be augmented through better efficiencies, he states.

“It is hard to buy local TV compared to some of the other digital media,” Ducey says.

This, he believes, is why ad spend in programmatic and mobile video is growing, while not so much in broadcast. “TV is our challenge,” he says. “We are operating in disparate fashion to the digital market, and coming up with effective solutions in television is essential.”

More data. More efficiency. For one conference attendee, who works at a full-service advertising agency in Houston, attending digital sessions was the primary reason for being in New Orleans — and not the TV and radio industry breakout sessions. The other most important takeaway she hoped to bring home: insight on client contracts and liability, and how “scope of work” can bring better answers in circumstances where money is owed, and suddenly the party declares Chapter 11 and payment is thrown into uncertainty.

Media Finance Focus 2019 kicked off with Manship Media CFO Ralph Bender and Bonneville International Corp. Controller Melissa Mitchell taking a jovial approach to welcoming the 500-plus attendees at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, all representing the financial side of radio, TV, gaming, newspapers and media credit companies.

“Media finance people are involved more than just assets and credits,” says Bender, who noted that the impact of technology is something many are still coming to terms with. “We have a lot … we just don’t know how to use it!”

Bender’s cell phone rang just as he made the comment.

Among the presenters was Nicole Meade, the Washington-based Senior Sales Manager of Broadcast Operations, who has a team of 10 working with her on spot TV for The E.W. Scripps Co. She talked of the difference between programmatic (live time bidding) versus automation (a process of making buying and selling time more efficient).

Meade spent nearly 15 years on the buy side, and when she came to the sell side, she was surprised that there was demand — and why it can lead to better sales management in a media organization.

Appearing with Meade and Ducey on a session panel moderated by Hearst Television Senior Director of Finance Tracey Clark was WideOrbit CEO Eric Mathewson. He notes that some $100 million — “crazy money” — has been sent to make better linkages to the buy side and notes that the fact just 3% of spot TV is automated shows there is a lot of upside to efforts to help solve this problem.

With the largest collection of first-time attendees ever seen for Media Finance Focus, MFM and BCCA welcomed noted political consultant and strategist James Carville for a Keynote that saw Carville question if the Republican party was now defined by “Trumpism” and that “negative partisanship” among politicians is being fed by the nation’s electorate.

Following Carville’s address was a presentation from Adrienne Slack of the New Orleans branch of the Atlanta Federal reserve Bank sharing the national and regional economic factors that could weigh on local advertising for broadcast media in the next year.