Atlas Enters VOD Market

Atlas Solutions signaled today it’s on track to offer ad management tools for the video-on-demand (define) and DVR (define) markets. A new division, called Atlas On Demand, will be led by Web and cable veteran Scott Ferris.

Atlas On Demand be integrated with the aQuantive unit’s digital ad management and trafficking suite. As with the rest of that platform’s tools, Atlas On Demand will consolidate media planning and buying, creative management, trafficking and analytics for VOD campaigns.

It’s a tall order in an area that has as many moving parts as does the emerging interactive TV space, with its mix of players both large and small. For one, it will require Atlas develop a way to fuse together its front end with the delivery back ends of the cable, VOD and DVR operators. Company executives say Atlas is well positioned to provide the infrastructure and support for a unified system.

“It’s so hard to do business with [cable operators] on a standardized suite of interfaces and processes,” said Ferris, who will lead the new division as SVP and general manager. “They have their own personalities. It’s hard to rise above and transcend that, if you don’t have an automated suite of lifecycle and workflow tools that make it seamless and simple to do. Any way you look at it, there’s a role for a company to do what we do.”

He continued, “We’re not about charging the cable operator for any collaboration or technology,” said Ferris. “We’re a facilitator. This is new inventory to them.”

No distribution partners have been announced, and the company has yet to launch a VOD platform; but Ferris said Atlas is in active talks with cable operators and will shortly go public with a major partner.

Atlas’ play is among the first instances in which an online ad technology vendor has tackled the nascent VOD ad market. The company’s move may be a harbinger of things to come, as media in general goes digital and user-initiated. Ferris contends interactive players are among the best positioned to provide ad solutions for digital TV.

“When you look at what’s happening with digital television, it’s taking this linear, scaled ad model to a non-linear, fragmented, user-controlled experience,” said Ferris. “There are… layers of complication for agencies to contend with, from a national media perspective, to execute a media buy. We’re taking a suite of [online ad management] tools and applying it on top of digital television, which is a medium going down the same path in terms of its characteristics.”

Ferris joined Atlas over a year ago and has so far focused on researching the viability of an offering like the one announced today. Earlier in his career, he helped build US WEST, the first digital broadband network in the U.K., and was involved in Time Warner Cable’s iTV trial in Orlando, Fla.

Atlas also hired Jay Schiller to the On Demand unit, as VP of business development. Schiller joins from C-COR, where he led market development for on demand TV and digital ad solutions.

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