New Platforms Tackle Data Normalization As Key to Maximizing M&E Monetization
Originally featured here in screenplaysmag.com.
By Fred Dawson
Mediamorph Targets Supply Chain End to End; PremiumMedia360 Focuses on Advertising
June 27, 2018 – New approaches to mitigating the impact of disparate, incompatibly configured databases on B2B transactions bode well for the automation that is essential to doing business in an ever more fragmented M&E marketplace.
When it comes to expediting the transition to addressability in TV advertising, the momentum everyone is looking for may ultimately depend on whether a way can be found to normalize data for engagements involving massive amounts of instantaneous transactions across the crowded multiscreen services marketplace. More broadly, there’s a need for efficient data exchanges touching on every aspect of premium video commerce, including financial settlements, rights management, building and maintaining metadata essential to asset management and user experience and much else.
Significant progress toward meeting these challenges can be found in new solutions tendered by two firms: PremiumMedia360, a startup focused on advertising-related data normalization, and Mediamorph, a long-time provider of support for financial and digital rights transaction management that’s taking on the larger realm of data exchange tied to all aspects of commercial operations among producers and distributors of movies, TV programs and other high-value video assets.
Mediamorph, which for the past ten years has been helping major Hollywood studios, TV networks and MVPD affiliates to execute content rights management and fulfillment in the video-on-demand market, has expanded its capabilities to support data gathering, analysis and tie-ins to settlement systems touching on monetization and fulfillment across the entire VOD supply chain. Many customers are now using the expanded set of Mediamorph modules, says Mediamorph CEO Robert Gardos.
“The industry is becoming much more data centric, using data and analytics to drive negotiations and make decisions instead of relying on old spread-sheet-based manual processes,” Gardos says. “We’re helping to automate the supply chain end to end, which is an incredibly complex process on the back end that makes things fast and simple on the front end.”
The firm’s expanded portfolio facilitates management of content rights, content availability, all types of metadata, ad inventories and performance analysis by processing massive amounts of transactions-related data in near real time, enabling customers to maximize content revenues and control content costs, Gardos explains. “Normalizing data with digital content is where we started,” he says. “Now we’re normalizing business processes every step of the way. Mediamorph tracks content flows from content providers to distributors, correlating how editorial, graphics and other forms of metadata, changes in pricing and licensing terms, information about ad inventory availabilities, and many other details are applied in synch with each customer’s needs.
The same “giant analytics engine” Mediamorph has long used to support fulfillment of financial transactions is now being applied to every nuance of business operations down to things like assessing how a new movie promotion graphic impacts consumer uptake, Gardos says. As for the company’s role in advertising, “We’re marrying runs and scheduling information with ads,” he says. “Now our customers can combine consumption data on their linear schedules with AVOD consumption, payments and amortization data.”
The need for a data normalization platform specific to the requirements of advanced advertising has prompted strong interest in PremiumMedia360’s cloud-based solution, says John Bowser, CEO at PremiumMedia360, also known as PM360. After three years of evangelizing the benefits of the massive data-bridging initiative the firm launched six years ago, Bowser is at last seeing stakeholders go beyond a general embrace of the concept to recognizing the time has come to act on it.
“Two years ago people would tell us, that’s great, but we’re not ready to move ahead,” he says. “Now people are sitting down and telling us what their data problems are and what solutions they need to move their business forward.”
While there are relatively few big-name software programs used for data management on both the buy and sell sides, customized versions of those programs together with home-grown programs pervade the marketplace, creating bottlenecks to execution of agreements and processes that are essential to success in the new multiscreen advertising environment. “Everybody’s data is different,” Bowser says.
For example, ad agencies tout the advantages they can provide customers based on how they’ve customized a data program like Mediaocean. “So you end up with 135 Mediaocean users with 135 different operating systems,” he says. It’s the same thing on the sell side: “You have 2,000 TV stations with 2,000 different databases running on similar software programs.”
This state of affairs hasn’t been a problem in the traditional spot buying environment of broadcast television. But addressable advertising, especially the highly targeted modes enabled for Internet-delivered programming with on-the-fly in-stream placements, requires that buyers have persistent access to sellers’ data for information about inventory, end user profiles and fulfillment. And as programmatic advertising gains traction in the TV world, that, too, requires a seamless use of data across the supply chain.
Even in regular linear TV spot buying, the onset of more automated approaches to setting up campaigns and the need for immediate responses has outmoded old approaches to data sharing, notes Joan FitzGerald, senior vice president for advanced TV global partnerships at PM360. “For a lot of advertisers local linear has dropped out of consideration anymore, because they need to be on the air in hours,” FitzGerald says. “But it takes weeks under current conditions. The timing is vastly improved with automation of data normalization.”
PM360 touts its Guidance Intelligent Assistant (GIA) Cloud service as the “world’s first intelligent transactional data management platform for linear TV advertising.” “With a single data connection, the TV industry’s multiple software platforms can easily communicate, exchange data and transport information,” Bowser says. It’s “a simple, easy-to-implement solution that benefits both ad agencies and media partners, allowing them to transform the way linear TV advertising is bought and sold.”
The data normalization platform, offered in SaaS (software-as-a-service) mode, is meant as a complement to whatever third-party or in-house systems buyers and sellers employ to set up campaigns. The AI-powered service acts as a universal translator hub that cost effectively integrates with 100 percent of existing media software platforms, Bowser says. “We’re talking about avails and all the transactional data – pre and post logs, orders, invoices – that needs to be shared between buy and sell sides,” he explains.
“Set-up can take as little as 30 minutes, and there is no software program for media companies or third-party suppliers to learn or install. All reformatting of data is completed en route in an encrypted environment before reaching the intended recipient.” ‘The system doesn’t require anybody on the buy or sell side to re-engineer anything,” he continues. “We simply connect to the existing buy-side profiles for sending data and do the same on the sell side. They send data to our platform and it translates that to the data required by the recipient. It all happens in a few seconds.” AI lends an essential dynamism to the platform, ensuring that updates in individual data systems and any mistakes in their application are accounted for in ongoing transactions, he adds.
The AI component mimics the human decision process, first by detecting the problems and errors found in incomplete and non-standardized media data, and then by automatically correcting the specific issues of each data set within seconds of detection. It then memorizes the solutions so that the same problems are no longer an issue in all future data communications.
“Every time an agency changes something it gets reformatted in our system and checked against the first data set from that agency,” Bowser says. “Our system understands all the legacy data systems and how our customers want to do things today. This allows them to operate without changing anything.”
Normalization also involves sorting through data fields on the sell side to ensure information is properly slotted in the buy-side data fields. “A lot of times there are mismatches between what agencies want and the data provided by sellers,” Bowser notes. “Agency systems want between 14 and 17 fields of data, but TV stations often send only three or four fields.”
There are frequently errors that have to be caught and corrected in the normalization process, FitzGerald notes. “When you’re working with a massive translation engine, there will be situations with mismatches where the negotiated cost of the spot was $3K but it came in as $3.2K,” she says. “We surface those mismatches through our interface to the agency so that they can correct them and there’s just one source of truth.”
Along with facilitating the data processing speeds essential to enabling instantaneous interaction among thousands of buyers and sellers in the dynamic advertising market, the PM360 platform cuts costs, FitzGerald adds. For agencies “it’s incredibly tedious and costly to maintain access to sell-side data working with data files from thousands of media ad inventory partners,” she says.
Moreover, with normalization of the data for direct in-house access, agencies can perform their own analytics, Bowser notes. “Agencies want to bring all that data from all those systems into their systems so they can do analytics without having to rely on third parties,” he says. At the same time, he adds, for entities that specialize in providing analytics services to buyers and sellers, the PM360 service eliminates the tedium of normalizing data from myriad clients for processing by the analytics supplier.
One such supplier, Havas Edge, is leveraging PM360’s Smart Data Hub to normalize all the data flowing in from its sell-side clients. “We are now processing over 250,000 television media transactions a month through PM360’s platform,” says Walker Burl, director of short-form media operations at Havas Edge. “The platform handles all the data mapping and has an easy to establish API connection that will save time and transaction costs for both media partners and Havas Edge,”