SAS targets media industry

As the media sector weathers vast change, SAS Institute has launched a series of software-based initiatives for beleaguered industry executives.

The idea is to help publishers, cable operators and music and entertainment executives analyze customer data, design marketing campaigns, reduce customer churn and increase revenue per user.

To target businesses in these areas, SAS' Media and Entertainment Business unit has hired media industry insiders to tailor the existing SAS business intelligence software platform, which includes data management, data mining and reporting functions, for industry-specific problems.

The SAS unit is now putting the finishing touches on Customer Profitability for Cable and Publishing, scheduled for release late this year or early next year, according to Michael Minelli, manager of the SAS media unit.

"We took an existing, proven SAS product and bundled it with human experience and intellectual capital to create what we're calling a Knowledge Solution," Minelli said.

Customer Profitability follows on the heels of Circulation Forecast and Measurement, released last quarter, and a series of other programs released over the past year, including: Advertising Performance Management; Intellivisor for Media; Demand Intelligence for Film and Music; and Marketing Automation for Fan Loyalty, Cable and Publishing.

"SAS has been working with the media industry since 1981, we've always focused on the media industry but have not up until now had a formal practice," Minelli said. But after its media sector products experienced 68 percent growth last year, the company decided to put together a dedicated media team.

With the threat of digital piracy looming, an expanding array of cable, Internet and broadband entertainment competitors vying for consumer attention, and a downsized economy curbing investments, media industry executives need all the help they can get for efforts to attract and retain customers.

"We have a huge amount of data about pay-per-view and VOD (video on demand) transactions," said Peter Schamel, senior vice president and chief information officer for In Demand Networks, a US provider of programming for the cable industry. "We do an analysis by region, by titles, for example, to evaluate the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and understand trends -- what works and what doesn't."

In Demand took advantage of the fact that it needed to add more data elements to the data structures it was using in Microsoft's SQL Server, and adopted SAS software as it updated. It still uses SQL Server, but performs analysis in SAS, rather than "primitive tools" such as spreadsheets, Schamel said. The company is using the complete SAS Business Intelligence Solution, which includes data management, data mining and reporting functions.

"We want to create predictive models, understanding patterns in the numbers and identifying causative factors for identifiable patterns," Schamel said.

Time is using SAS software to fine-tune efforts to get subscribers to renew subscriptions, according to Avi Halutz vice president of technology, marketing information and retail systems in New York. SAS is used to help decide, for example, how many renewal notices to send out to certain segments of subscribers, and what type of offers should be made. "We wanted to automate the whole process and minimize manual efforts."

The software, Marketing Automation for Publishing, is saving a lot of headaches and is also being used to measure marketing campaign effectiveness, he said.

It makes sense for SAS to focus on media as a vertical market, according to long-time SAS observer Mike Schiff, an analyst at Current Analysis. "They have solid core technology and they keep expanding into specific vertical markets."

SAS, for example, has set up vertical-market practices in a variety of industry areas including banking and health care. The retail arena is also in the company's sights, as evidenced by last week's announcement of SAS' acquisition of Marketmax, which puts out the Integrated Retail Merchandise Planning applications.

SAS has become practiced at hiring experts in certain industry sectors and leveraging their knowledge to help them compete with rivals such as Cognos and SPSS in a widening range of vertical markets including banking and health care, Schiff noted.

However, though SAS has offices worldwide, the Media and Entertainment Business Unit is for now only U.S.-based, according to Minelli. "It's acting like an incubator; this is a seedling in the sapling phase."

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