Buying local TV is still an extremely manual process.
FreeWheel wants to change that. On Tuesday, the Comcast-owned company released features in its Strata media platform that automate planning and buying for local TV buyers.
Strata, which Comcast bought back in 2005, is used by more than 1,200 agencies to plan and buy media across channels.
The new planning tools, now in pilot with “a handful of agencies,” streamline the manually intensive processes of estimating ratings, optimizing schedules and negotiating with local affiliates – common challenges of buying local TV inventory, said Joy Baer, president at FreeWheel Advertisers.
“We dug into the really time intensive tasks around buying local TV and worked to close the gap,” she said.
Strata’s automation capabilities use machine learning to quickly combine historical, network and third-party data to help buyers estimate spot ratings and create the most efficient schedules for their clients. Previously, buyers would rely on manual spreadsheets.
The new features also help local buyers streamline their online negotiations, as they often work with thousands of sales reps. Buyers can, for instance, message all of their reps at once and keep track of communications and transactions.
Because these features are launching in Strata, agencies won’t have to change their workflow, Baer said.
So far, the automation has helped Omnicom agency Zimmerman, which is testing the tools, reduce time spent on local TV planning from a day to minutes.
“This is a huge benefit to our clients,” said Adam Herman, EVP and chief integrated media director at Zimmerman, in a statement. “Our buyers’ time can be better spent on more strategic activities rather than on mundane tasks that are best automated.”
Next, FreeWheel will look to automate more capabilities in Strata on the back end of media buying, like reporting, optimization and reconciliation. It went after the front-end workflow first because it was the “lowest-hanging fruit,” Baer said.
FreeWheel also plans to release tools that automate processes around national TV and audio buying later this year.
“The opportunity of bringing together all of these assets under the Comcast umbrella is around driving more efficiencies in the TV ecosystem,” Baer said. “All boats rise when we create capabilities like this for the marketplace.”