TVB shopping ePort?


TVB’s Gary Belis confirms with RBR-TVBR that TVB (Television Bureau of Advertising) is considering spinning off the managing of its ePort electronic platform for buying and selling spot TV. TVB recently announced it had hit the $1 billion mark in order volume since it launched in February 2007. “Basically we’ve had discussions with several vendors at various levels and have explored a number of scenarios. But nothing has been decided,” he tells us. “We’re absolutely committed to advancing e-business, and that’s one of the key initiatives of the association, as laid down by the board, and ePort as a facilitator of e-business. So there are different scenarios to getting to that goal and we are exploring them.”

We asked: Are you looking to sell the service? “That’s not necessarily true.”

Belis also confirms what has been rumored and reported – the software vendors have been slow to complete the interfaces needed to integrate their systems with ePort as quickly as TVB had expected.  Additionally, the ability to handle makegoods and order revisions electronically, while fully functional in ePort, has not been fully deployed by several buy-sell systems, so its progress had been slow.

Steve Lanzano, TVB President, was unavailable for comment, making a speech in Idaho.

A king of the transaction biz for television is Donovan Data Systems. They are not connecting to ePort at this time. ePort is aimed at buyers and sellers (directly between stations and reps) with no e-business capability. Donovan’s DARE software, however, is used for business between national station reps and agencies.

As well, TVB’s revenue model for ePort expected vendors to integrate with ePort (which takes code writing) without getting any compensation. Also, some broadcasters had been slow in implementing the software and its upgrades, due to budgetary pressures.

TVB had retained Strata to develop ePort, and it owns the intellectual property rights to it, so they were likely in discussions with the association.

Says Kathy Crawford, President of MindShare Local Broadcast and member of the Board of Directors of WideOrbit: “It is certainly a sad state of affairs in 2010 that we are still talking about e commerce when it should be a big part of everyday order transmission in the media buying business.  I just hope the business doesn’t do itself out of a business because it is too labor intensive and the cost of local outweighs the waste of national.”

While it has been reported in TV NewsCheck that WideOrbit denied making a presentation to the TVB on this matter, RBR-TVBR sources (not Crawford) said that they did indeed make a formal presentation, beyond just discussions. But it looks like at this point — either way — WO will not be taking ePort under its wing. TV NewsCheck said WideOrbit spent more than $1 million to make its software interface with the TVB system, but got no compensation in return.

WideOrbit CEO Eric Mathewson responded by saying, “The article quote was correct in that we did NOT make a presentation, but we have had some active discussions with Steve and his team on a wide variety of subjects including ePort.”