Web-Based DRTV Solution to Debut

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Media specialist Back Channel Media will roll out a new Web-based media management database solution called Surveyor next month that can immediately assist cable operators in keeping up-to-date with DRTV ads they are showing as well as allow them to instantly order the most popular shows and spots to air.

The system is also fully scalable and lays the groundwork for Back Channel's goal of becoming the "DoubleClick of I-TV," said President/CEO Michael Kokernak.

Surveyor is in a test phase with half of about 40 media outlets that Back Channel has as clients. Currently these clients receive information via fax. But the launch in October will integrate the online portion with the main database, making it simple for any of the company's clients to access information from any PC, which is always coupled with live assistance from Back Channel staff.

"We have been using the system for some time now and cannot wait until it moves onto the Web," said Jamey Schmidz, general manager at WLMB-TV in Toledo, OH. "As far as tracking and monitoring direct response television, Back Channel Media is providing the most accurate and comprehensive account information that is available today. There is really nothing else like it anywhere. This system is like Windows is to the PC -- no one else even has anything close."

Based on responses such as Schmidz's, Kokernak said he expects to have 75 to 100 media outlets using the system by January 2001.

"In four weeks we are marrying the front end -- the Web -- with the back end -- the database," Kokernak said. "Media outlets can log in and see all their account information -- what money is due to them, what sales have been made, return on investment -- and it will tap into other databases to give cumulative rankings of direct response products so they can request and get e-mail notification on additional products that they wish to start showing. ... Then they will be added to the database, and the tapes [will be] sent out to them."

With the recent advances in interactive TV, many new companies are popping up and existing ones are crossing over from other media. But Back Channel, which is about 1 year old, started in DRTV specifically to use the relationships it is building to make the leap to I-TV.

"You will see with I-TV that there will be a long educational process for media outlets and advertisers to really explain to them the technology that is available with interactive TV," Kokernak said. "In order to start the dialogue now with what we hope to be future interactive television partners, we feel that it's best to start with traditional [non-interactive TV] brokering of time."

He said Surveyor would eventually be licensed to other companies and that, mirroring its name, his company would stay in the background.

But for now, the main priority is building up the system and staking a claim to a new realm of advertising that many fear or distrust.

"Other media specialists want more dollars per sale for the commission, whereas in I-TV it's really in pennies," Kokernak said. "I-TV is a technologically focused solution, and the traffic and billing issues can really choke a company, so it's not an attractive type of industry to get into now. People are just starting to get interested in this business, so we are trying to get ahead of the curve. Five years from now, we will look over our shoulders and wonder why we ever questioned it."

Kokernak said Back Channel would concentrate on accommodating a blend of all kinds of applications -- from Wink to WebTV to WorldGate.

"It's a blending of interactive applications that is going to make advertising most effective for the advertisers and direct response marketers," Kokernak said.

This extends to the type of ads that will appear, Kokernak said. Among those new types of ads are television banners, electronic program guide spots, 30-second addressable ads, and even information bars that appear on screen as advertisements.

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