May 21, 2018
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History and Growth of Media Distribution Services – a Multi-Part Series Part 1-Featuring: Airdate Traffic Services Ltd.

Media distribution services defined; “Media Distribution” (aka content delivery and content distribution also known in Ad Agencies as “Traffic”) is the preparation, control and distribution of media content. The term is now generally used to describe distribution over digital delivery mediums. As the industry reached a more mature state in the early digital age Satellite, FTP, ISDN and eventually NET-based distribution bypassed the use of physical tape delivery methods that were prevalent from the 1960s until well into the 1990s.

What drove Media Distribution in Canada? The primary TV networks in 1970 (CBC and CTV) continued to grow viewership across all demographics as TV became the primary source of news and entertainment over newspapers and radio in the late 60s, approaching and surpassing 50% of all advertising spending in Canada. Adding to the growth of TV viewing were new super-stations coming on stream in the 70s; Global TV was granted a license in 1974 and CITY TV finally got their transmitter moved to achieve a super-station level reach in 1974.

The need to increase TV advertising sales revenues was of paramount importance to TV Broadcasters in order to show year on year profitability. (More so at CTV, Global, CITY; the private broadcasters vs. federally supported public broadcaster CBC although CBC was mandated to run a financially balanced operation)
This core group of private and public broadcasters all had critical airdate/traffic requirements for commercials supplied by Toronto Ad Agencies and the Agencies required the assistance of Media Distribution services to make those airdates.

At the same time, the appetite among advertisers for placements of local and national advertising on TV networks expanded and both local and multi-national Ad Agencies were coming under increased pressure to produce a greater number of commercials each year for two reasons; Canadian TV audiences in the 70s were becoming more sophisticated as TV moved out of the golden age (1945-1965) and baby boomers became the prime demographic to pitch. Boomers grew up with TV as the prime source of home entertainment and were not apt to swallow sub-standard production values or less than timely update/refresh rates for commercials from the major advertisers of the day. Meanwhile, corporations and their agencies, broadcasters and their shareholders; pushed for an expanded slate of commercial minutes per hour to be allowed on Canadian TV.

Historical perspective on Media Distribution; from the mid-fifties to the early-seventies, media/content distribution was in the form of physical delivery of 16mm & 35mm film to cinemas, 16mm film to TV and audiotape to Radio. With the onset of technologies, TV commercial distribution (the primary driving factor in the growth of the sector at the time) moved from 16mm film to videotape.

This and subsequent articles in the series cover growth and expansion of content distribution services to dedicated content delivery providers; including over-the-air, cable, digital level and internet-based broadcasters.
From a historical perspective the only media distribution services readily available to assist in the chain of physical delivery between Advertising Agencies; their Commercial Production Houses and TV Broadcasters in 1972 were NYC based “Bonded Services” and “Syndicated Comprehensive”. (Bonded and Syndicated) These services suffered from a lack of “on the ground” representation and were missing their airdate deadlines as set between Media Buyer Agency and TV Broadcaster. Shortly thereafter, circa 1973, Stan Lata started up Airdate Traffic Services Ltd.

Airdate’s formation and subsequent decades-long contribution to content distribution within the Canadian Film and TV Industry was originally inspired by the need for more local, timely and accurate duplication and delivery of Radio and TV commercials to over-the-air broadcasters. Airdate is a family business, a closely held small business by any definition. Stan, his wife Joyce, his son Mike (now VP Production) and their VP Head of Sales, Mike’s sister Nancy. Within the confines of their Toronto-based headquarters one can immediately understand and indelibly feel their dedication to service; the care taken in serving and maintaining a client base made up of (primarily) Ad Agencies and the Commercial Production Houses that serve those agencies. Subsequently Airdate added major long form entertainment production firms like Alliance-Atlantis and Nelvana but Airdate “cut its teeth” on a steady diet of TV Commercials Distribution.

One can envision the difficulty Stan Lata must have encountered in starting a small business and inserting it into the commercial path of the large corporate regional, national and multi-national agencies and broadcasters in 1973.
So, backing up the story a bit, those NYC firms – “Bonded” and “Syndicated” were missing TV airdates so a local Toronto technical services Media Distribution Company dedicated to A/V quality control, duplication, distribution and delivery of TV commercials to broadcasters was required. Stan Lata stepped up and started one, aptly called Airdate Traffic Services Ltd. It needed, according to Stan’s math, roughly $25,000 worth of monitors, oscilloscopes, dubbing and transfer stations along with office space to house the gear and the business.
Stan had developed some pretty good contacts over time within the agency and broadcast chain so he just needed some cash to get things started. He did this with a loan guarantee provided by a friendly financier who set up a meeting with a loan-officer contact at a Toronto bank. The story goes like this: Banker: “So I have the documents here for signature in the amount of $250,000.00.” Stan to friendly financier: “!!!??? I only asked for $25,000” Friendly financier to Stan: (sotto voice) “shut up – take the cash and don’t embarrass me in front of my banker!” Stan to banker: “Ok, thanks”.

Mike Lata, a student at the time, was the unpaid intern for his dad and learned the biz from top to bottom. He got to know all the players of the day while Stan provided a first-to-market service based on the credo: “undersell and over-deliver”. The multi-national Agencies of the day, McCann-Erickson, Leo Burnett, J. Walter Thompson, DDB, FCB and a host of international and local firms all became clients. Stan hit his airdates and worked well with his clients, the agencies and often, their dedicated commercial production houses and post houses.
Depending on the advertiser being serviced, delivery of masters for commercials might have come from: The Partners, VTR, MPV, Scollard Productions, Rawi-Sherman, TDF, Film House, PFA-Medallion and of course Deluxe and Technicolor… the major Commercial and Post Houses in existence at that time.
As Airdate grew in reputation certain major advertisers with annual marketing budgets in the multi millions wanted to avoid the 30% Agency surcharges in the Traffic sector and came at Airdate insisting they be taken on as direct clients for media distribution. This put Stan and Joyce in an uncomfortable position; Agencies provided 90% of their business and were notoriously protective of their client relationships. Stan, Joyce and Mike (growing into his operations role under the tutelage of the family, at that time) handled this the only way they knew how to, by sticking to principals of honesty and full disclosure. Along with “undersell and over deliver” philosophy, their company was built on a solid foundation of trust so naturally these principals were adhered to. An understanding was eventually achieved based on the fact that the Advertiser/Client made the approach around the Agency to Airdate and not the other way around. Some advertisers have directly employed Airdate for decades. Ad Agencies couldn’t complain because: “The client always comes first”.

Airdate encountered and had to operate within a flurry of technical changes involving evolving tape formats that occurred between the 1974 and 1999:
This “Tech flurry” applied to Mastering, Transferring, Quality Control, Dubbing and Delivery. It changed slowly between 1974 and 1980, a little more rapidly between 1981 through to 1995, then exponentially between 1996 and present day. An important element of the Airdate story was the sudden passing of Stan Lata, in 1988 while in Las Vegas for the NAB Show.

The surviving family members including Joyce, Michael (and in early the early 2000’s) Nancy, assumed full operational and financial responsibility from that point forward.

Technical gear to QC, transfer, closed caption and delivery formats were often purchased in anticipation and in advance of client requirement. Technology quickly changed on several fronts throughout the years – blank media/quality control/delivery systems were constantly evolving. Each addition and modification had a hard cost and an expensive cycle of acquisition, training, deployment and wind-down. As tape media broadcast formats changed throughout the 80s and 90s it had to be repeated again and again.

…and then: The VIDEOTAPE supply vanished over a 90 day period in 2003!  With the abrupt demise of videotape after the Tsunami hit Japan and wiped out the majority of the world’s videotape supply, memory cards and hard drives had to be quickly worked into content distribution systems. New issues to solve for transfer, dub and quality control ensued. Delivery began to move out of the physical tape era by the early-90s to dedicated satellite and point-to-point digital, then into FTP and ISDN lines by the mid-90s and more recently to internet-based delivery systems after the millennium.

Post 2000, specialist networks known as content delivery platforms were created to help distribute content over the Internet by ensuring both high quality content availability and high performance for broadcast. Alternative technologies for commercial delivery included, content delivery platforms that created and syndicated content remotely as well as associated software, included hosted content management systems, (CMS) Digital Asset Management systems, (DAMs) and Media Asset Management systems. (MAMs)

AirDate’s changing technical mandate over the 1st 40 years: 1973-2013
Intake 16mm: Transfer, Quality Control, Dub & Deliver on 2 Inch Videotape (pre 1975)
Intake 2 inch: QC, Dub & Deliver on 2 inch. (1975 forward)
Intake 1 inch/2 Inch: QC, Dub & Deliver on 2 inch. (1980 forward)
Intake 1 inch/2 Inch: Dub & Deliver on 1 inch/2 inch (1981 forward)
Intake 1 Inch/BetaSP: Dub & Deliver: 1 inch/BetaSP (1988 forward)
Intake Digital Betacam/BetaSP: Dub & Deliver: BetaSP/1” Videotape (1991 forward)
Add Close-Captioning services while lobbying the Cdn Government to privatize it (1990-91)
Add “Fast Channel” for Mpeg2 conversion of analogue to Digital (1996-97)
Add Terrago wireless digital data for QC & Transfer (2001)
Wind down all tape-based operations change over to card and hard-drive (2003)
Add Standards Conversion package(s) (2005)
New QC Software Package Deployed (2010)
Digital Asset Management System selection and deployment (2010)

Let’s take one further look into Airdate, a business that has operated continuously for over 40 years. Airdate was fortunate to start with an operating line at 10X the requirement. One has to wonder; if during the flurry of tech change and the mounting operating costs that ensued; whether Mike Lata, formerly the unpaid intern, now the VP of Production, would say to his father if he saw him today: “Hey Dad, thanks for taking that $250,000 when you thought you were only at the bank to sign off on $25,000 – it came in handy”.

Next in the Series – Other firms in the sector to be featured and more technological changes ensue. The Media Distribution Services sector grows to serve greater demand for QC, language versioning, captioning for both hearing and visually impaired audiences and add to net and cloud delivery of all forms of TV Programming: Series, Specials, Documentaries, Features are adopted and incorporated by Content Distribution firms located in Toronto who specialize in delivery all over the world.


Footnote:
How the proliferation of TV commercial production and associated TV media buying affected the growth in demand for Media Distribution:

TV commercials have a short life-span for a variety of obvious reasons. New advertisers were consistently stepping forward into the hot marketplace that was TV advertising between 1970 and 2000. There was not a more effective advertising path for big budget mass market products and services than TV.
The advertising creation and production industry was in a golden age; fortunes were being made and there was huge growth in commercial creation, production and TV media buying. The chart below only covers 1995-2002 however the argument can be made that TV advertising was responsible for upwards of 65% of all advertising spending (5.25 billion in 1995 through to 7.5 billion in 2002 against Radio, Print and diverse outdoor advertising. We haven’t looked all the way back to 1970 but suggest an estimate of greater than 50% of the hundreds of millions spent on TV Advertising in Canada at that time would not be a stretch.

1B210B71-6C50-4DDF-9CD1-0FC2208D5237

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Front Page, Headline, Industry News

History and Growth of Media Distribution Services – a Multi-Part Series Part 1-Featuring: Airdate Traffic Services Ltd.

Media distribution services defined; “Media Distribution” (aka content delivery and content distribution also known in Ad Agencies as “Traffic”) is the preparation, control and distribution of media content. The term is now generally used to describe distribution over digital delivery mediums. As the industry reached a more mature state in the early digital age Satellite, FTP, ISDN and eventually NET-based distribution bypassed the use of physical tape delivery methods that were prevalent from the 1960s until well into the 1990s.

What drove Media Distribution in Canada? The primary TV networks in 1970 (CBC and CTV) continued to grow viewership across all demographics as TV became the primary source of news and entertainment over newspapers and radio in the late 60s, approaching and surpassing 50% of all advertising spending in Canada. Adding to the growth of TV viewing were new super-stations coming on stream in the 70s; Global TV was granted a license in 1974 and CITY TV finally got their transmitter moved to achieve a super-station level reach in 1974.

The need to increase TV advertising sales revenues was of paramount importance to TV Broadcasters in order to show year on year profitability. (More so at CTV, Global, CITY; the private broadcasters vs. federally supported public broadcaster CBC although CBC was mandated to run a financially balanced operation)
This core group of private and public broadcasters all had critical airdate/traffic requirements for commercials supplied by Toronto Ad Agencies and the Agencies required the assistance of Media Distribution services to make those airdates.

At the same time, the appetite among advertisers for placements of local and national advertising on TV networks expanded and both local and multi-national Ad Agencies were coming under increased pressure to produce a greater number of commercials each year for two reasons; Canadian TV audiences in the 70s were becoming more sophisticated as TV moved out of the golden age (1945-1965) and baby boomers became the prime demographic to pitch. Boomers grew up with TV as the prime source of home entertainment and were not apt to swallow sub-standard production values or less than timely update/refresh rates for commercials from the major advertisers of the day. Meanwhile, corporations and their agencies, broadcasters and their shareholders; pushed for an expanded slate of commercial minutes per hour to be allowed on Canadian TV.

Historical perspective on Media Distribution; from the mid-fifties to the early-seventies, media/content distribution was in the form of physical delivery of 16mm & 35mm film to cinemas, 16mm film to TV and audiotape to Radio. With the onset of technologies, TV commercial distribution (the primary driving factor in the growth of the sector at the time) moved from 16mm film to videotape.

This and subsequent articles in the series cover growth and expansion of content distribution services to dedicated content delivery providers; including over-the-air, cable, digital level and internet-based broadcasters.
From a historical perspective the only media distribution services readily available to assist in the chain of physical delivery between Advertising Agencies; their Commercial Production Houses and TV Broadcasters in 1972 were NYC based “Bonded Services” and “Syndicated Comprehensive”. (Bonded and Syndicated) These services suffered from a lack of “on the ground” representation and were missing their airdate deadlines as set between Media Buyer Agency and TV Broadcaster. Shortly thereafter, circa 1973, Stan Lata started up Airdate Traffic Services Ltd.

Airdate’s formation and subsequent decades-long contribution to content distribution within the Canadian Film and TV Industry was originally inspired by the need for more local, timely and accurate duplication and delivery of Radio and TV commercials to over-the-air broadcasters. Airdate is a family business, a closely held small business by any definition. Stan, his wife Joyce, his son Mike (now VP Production) and their VP Head of Sales, Mike’s sister Nancy. Within the confines of their Toronto-based headquarters one can immediately understand and indelibly feel their dedication to service; the care taken in serving and maintaining a client base made up of (primarily) Ad Agencies and the Commercial Production Houses that serve those agencies. Subsequently Airdate added major long form entertainment production firms like Alliance-Atlantis and Nelvana but Airdate “cut its teeth” on a steady diet of TV Commercials Distribution.

One can envision the difficulty Stan Lata must have encountered in starting a small business and inserting it into the commercial path of the large corporate regional, national and multi-national agencies and broadcasters in 1973.
So, backing up the story a bit, those NYC firms – “Bonded” and “Syndicated” were missing TV airdates so a local Toronto technical services Media Distribution Company dedicated to A/V quality control, duplication, distribution and delivery of TV commercials to broadcasters was required. Stan Lata stepped up and started one, aptly called Airdate Traffic Services Ltd. It needed, according to Stan’s math, roughly $25,000 worth of monitors, oscilloscopes, dubbing and transfer stations along with office space to house the gear and the business.
Stan had developed some pretty good contacts over time within the agency and broadcast chain so he just needed some cash to get things started. He did this with a loan guarantee provided by a friendly financier who set up a meeting with a loan-officer contact at a Toronto bank. The story goes like this: Banker: “So I have the documents here for signature in the amount of $250,000.00.” Stan to friendly financier: “!!!??? I only asked for $25,000” Friendly financier to Stan: (sotto voice) “shut up – take the cash and don’t embarrass me in front of my banker!” Stan to banker: “Ok, thanks”.

Mike Lata, a student at the time, was the unpaid intern for his dad and learned the biz from top to bottom. He got to know all the players of the day while Stan provided a first-to-market service based on the credo: “undersell and over-deliver”. The multi-national Agencies of the day, McCann-Erickson, Leo Burnett, J. Walter Thompson, DDB, FCB and a host of international and local firms all became clients. Stan hit his airdates and worked well with his clients, the agencies and often, their dedicated commercial production houses and post houses.
Depending on the advertiser being serviced, delivery of masters for commercials might have come from: The Partners, VTR, MPV, Scollard Productions, Rawi-Sherman, TDF, Film House, PFA-Medallion and of course Deluxe and Technicolor… the major Commercial and Post Houses in existence at that time.
As Airdate grew in reputation certain major advertisers with annual marketing budgets in the multi millions wanted to avoid the 30% Agency surcharges in the Traffic sector and came at Airdate insisting they be taken on as direct clients for media distribution. This put Stan and Joyce in an uncomfortable position; Agencies provided 90% of their business and were notoriously protective of their client relationships. Stan, Joyce and Mike (growing into his operations role under the tutelage of the family, at that time) handled this the only way they knew how to, by sticking to principals of honesty and full disclosure. Along with “undersell and over deliver” philosophy, their company was built on a solid foundation of trust so naturally these principals were adhered to. An understanding was eventually achieved based on the fact that the Advertiser/Client made the approach around the Agency to Airdate and not the other way around. Some advertisers have directly employed Airdate for decades. Ad Agencies couldn’t complain because: “The client always comes first”.

Airdate encountered and had to operate within a flurry of technical changes involving evolving tape formats that occurred between the 1974 and 1999:
This “Tech flurry” applied to Mastering, Transferring, Quality Control, Dubbing and Delivery. It changed slowly between 1974 and 1980, a little more rapidly between 1981 through to 1995, then exponentially between 1996 and present day. An important element of the Airdate story was the sudden passing of Stan Lata, in 1988 while in Las Vegas for the NAB Show.

The surviving family members including Joyce, Michael (and in early the early 2000’s) Nancy, assumed full operational and financial responsibility from that point forward.

Technical gear to QC, transfer, closed caption and delivery formats were often purchased in anticipation and in advance of client requirement. Technology quickly changed on several fronts throughout the years – blank media/quality control/delivery systems were constantly evolving. Each addition and modification had a hard cost and an expensive cycle of acquisition, training, deployment and wind-down. As tape media broadcast formats changed throughout the 80s and 90s it had to be repeated again and again.

…and then: The VIDEOTAPE supply vanished over a 90 day period in 2003!  With the abrupt demise of videotape after the Tsunami hit Japan and wiped out the majority of the world’s videotape supply, memory cards and hard drives had to be quickly worked into content distribution systems. New issues to solve for transfer, dub and quality control ensued. Delivery began to move out of the physical tape era by the early-90s to dedicated satellite and point-to-point digital, then into FTP and ISDN lines by the mid-90s and more recently to internet-based delivery systems after the millennium.

Post 2000, specialist networks known as content delivery platforms were created to help distribute content over the Internet by ensuring both high quality content availability and high performance for broadcast. Alternative technologies for commercial delivery included, content delivery platforms that created and syndicated content remotely as well as associated software, included hosted content management systems, (CMS) Digital Asset Management systems, (DAMs) and Media Asset Management systems. (MAMs)

AirDate’s changing technical mandate over the 1st 40 years: 1973-2013
Intake 16mm: Transfer, Quality Control, Dub & Deliver on 2 Inch Videotape (pre 1975)
Intake 2 inch: QC, Dub & Deliver on 2 inch. (1975 forward)
Intake 1 inch/2 Inch: QC, Dub & Deliver on 2 inch. (1980 forward)
Intake 1 inch/2 Inch: Dub & Deliver on 1 inch/2 inch (1981 forward)
Intake 1 Inch/BetaSP: Dub & Deliver: 1 inch/BetaSP (1988 forward)
Intake Digital Betacam/BetaSP: Dub & Deliver: BetaSP/1” Videotape (1991 forward)
Add Close-Captioning services while lobbying the Cdn Government to privatize it (1990-91)
Add “Fast Channel” for Mpeg2 conversion of analogue to Digital (1996-97)
Add Terrago wireless digital data for QC & Transfer (2001)
Wind down all tape-based operations change over to card and hard-drive (2003)
Add Standards Conversion package(s) (2005)
New QC Software Package Deployed (2010)
Digital Asset Management System selection and deployment (2010)

Let’s take one further look into Airdate, a business that has operated continuously for over 40 years. Airdate was fortunate to start with an operating line at 10X the requirement. One has to wonder; if during the flurry of tech change and the mounting operating costs that ensued; whether Mike Lata, formerly the unpaid intern, now the VP of Production, would say to his father if he saw him today: “Hey Dad, thanks for taking that $250,000 when you thought you were only at the bank to sign off on $25,000 – it came in handy”.

Next in the Series – Other firms in the sector to be featured and more technological changes ensue. The Media Distribution Services sector grows to serve greater demand for QC, language versioning, captioning for both hearing and visually impaired audiences and add to net and cloud delivery of all forms of TV Programming: Series, Specials, Documentaries, Features are adopted and incorporated by Content Distribution firms located in Toronto who specialize in delivery all over the world.


Footnote:
How the proliferation of TV commercial production and associated TV media buying affected the growth in demand for Media Distribution:

TV commercials have a short life-span for a variety of obvious reasons. New advertisers were consistently stepping forward into the hot marketplace that was TV advertising between 1970 and 2000. There was not a more effective advertising path for big budget mass market products and services than TV.
The advertising creation and production industry was in a golden age; fortunes were being made and there was huge growth in commercial creation, production and TV media buying. The chart below only covers 1995-2002 however the argument can be made that TV advertising was responsible for upwards of 65% of all advertising spending (5.25 billion in 1995 through to 7.5 billion in 2002 against Radio, Print and diverse outdoor advertising. We haven’t looked all the way back to 1970 but suggest an estimate of greater than 50% of the hundreds of millions spent on TV Advertising in Canada at that time would not be a stretch.

1B210B71-6C50-4DDF-9CD1-0FC2208D5237

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Front Page, Headline, Industry News

History and Growth of Media Distribution Services – a Multi-Part Series Part 1-Featuring: Airdate Traffic Services Ltd.

Media distribution services defined; “Media Distribution” (aka content delivery and content distribution also known in Ad Agencies as “Traffic”) is the preparation, control and distribution of media content. The term is now generally used to describe distribution over digital delivery mediums. As the industry reached a more mature state in the early digital age Satellite, FTP, ISDN and eventually NET-based distribution bypassed the use of physical tape delivery methods that were prevalent from the 1960s until well into the 1990s.

What drove Media Distribution in Canada? The primary TV networks in 1970 (CBC and CTV) continued to grow viewership across all demographics as TV became the primary source of news and entertainment over newspapers and radio in the late 60s, approaching and surpassing 50% of all advertising spending in Canada. Adding to the growth of TV viewing were new super-stations coming on stream in the 70s; Global TV was granted a license in 1974 and CITY TV finally got their transmitter moved to achieve a super-station level reach in 1974.

The need to increase TV advertising sales revenues was of paramount importance to TV Broadcasters in order to show year on year profitability. (More so at CTV, Global, CITY; the private broadcasters vs. federally supported public broadcaster CBC although CBC was mandated to run a financially balanced operation)
This core group of private and public broadcasters all had critical airdate/traffic requirements for commercials supplied by Toronto Ad Agencies and the Agencies required the assistance of Media Distribution services to make those airdates.

At the same time, the appetite among advertisers for placements of local and national advertising on TV networks expanded and both local and multi-national Ad Agencies were coming under increased pressure to produce a greater number of commercials each year for two reasons; Canadian TV audiences in the 70s were becoming more sophisticated as TV moved out of the golden age (1945-1965) and baby boomers became the prime demographic to pitch. Boomers grew up with TV as the prime source of home entertainment and were not apt to swallow sub-standard production values or less than timely update/refresh rates for commercials from the major advertisers of the day. Meanwhile, corporations and their agencies, broadcasters and their shareholders; pushed for an expanded slate of commercial minutes per hour to be allowed on Canadian TV.

Historical perspective on Media Distribution; from the mid-fifties to the early-seventies, media/content distribution was in the form of physical delivery of 16mm & 35mm film to cinemas, 16mm film to TV and audiotape to Radio. With the onset of technologies, TV commercial distribution (the primary driving factor in the growth of the sector at the time) moved from 16mm film to videotape.

This and subsequent articles in the series cover growth and expansion of content distribution services to dedicated content delivery providers; including over-the-air, cable, digital level and internet-based broadcasters.
From a historical perspective the only media distribution services readily available to assist in the chain of physical delivery between Advertising Agencies; their Commercial Production Houses and TV Broadcasters in 1972 were NYC based “Bonded Services” and “Syndicated Comprehensive”. (Bonded and Syndicated) These services suffered from a lack of “on the ground” representation and were missing their airdate deadlines as set between Media Buyer Agency and TV Broadcaster. Shortly thereafter, circa 1973, Stan Lata started up Airdate Traffic Services Ltd.

Airdate’s formation and subsequent decades-long contribution to content distribution within the Canadian Film and TV Industry was originally inspired by the need for more local, timely and accurate duplication and delivery of Radio and TV commercials to over-the-air broadcasters. Airdate is a family business, a closely held small business by any definition. Stan, his wife Joyce, his son Mike (now VP Production) and their VP Head of Sales, Mike’s sister Nancy. Within the confines of their Toronto-based headquarters one can immediately understand and indelibly feel their dedication to service; the care taken in serving and maintaining a client base made up of (primarily) Ad Agencies and the Commercial Production Houses that serve those agencies. Subsequently Airdate added major long form entertainment production firms like Alliance-Atlantis and Nelvana but Airdate “cut its teeth” on a steady diet of TV Commercials Distribution.

One can envision the difficulty Stan Lata must have encountered in starting a small business and inserting it into the commercial path of the large corporate regional, national and multi-national agencies and broadcasters in 1973.
So, backing up the story a bit, those NYC firms – “Bonded” and “Syndicated” were missing TV airdates so a local Toronto technical services Media Distribution Company dedicated to A/V quality control, duplication, distribution and delivery of TV commercials to broadcasters was required. Stan Lata stepped up and started one, aptly called Airdate Traffic Services Ltd. It needed, according to Stan’s math, roughly $25,000 worth of monitors, oscilloscopes, dubbing and transfer stations along with office space to house the gear and the business.
Stan had developed some pretty good contacts over time within the agency and broadcast chain so he just needed some cash to get things started. He did this with a loan guarantee provided by a friendly financier who set up a meeting with a loan-officer contact at a Toronto bank. The story goes like this: Banker: “So I have the documents here for signature in the amount of $250,000.00.” Stan to friendly financier: “!!!??? I only asked for $25,000” Friendly financier to Stan: (sotto voice) “shut up – take the cash and don’t embarrass me in front of my banker!” Stan to banker: “Ok, thanks”.

Mike Lata, a student at the time, was the unpaid intern for his dad and learned the biz from top to bottom. He got to know all the players of the day while Stan provided a first-to-market service based on the credo: “undersell and over-deliver”. The multi-national Agencies of the day, McCann-Erickson, Leo Burnett, J. Walter Thompson, DDB, FCB and a host of international and local firms all became clients. Stan hit his airdates and worked well with his clients, the agencies and often, their dedicated commercial production houses and post houses.
Depending on the advertiser being serviced, delivery of masters for commercials might have come from: The Partners, VTR, MPV, Scollard Productions, Rawi-Sherman, TDF, Film House, PFA-Medallion and of course Deluxe and Technicolor… the major Commercial and Post Houses in existence at that time.
As Airdate grew in reputation certain major advertisers with annual marketing budgets in the multi millions wanted to avoid the 30% Agency surcharges in the Traffic sector and came at Airdate insisting they be taken on as direct clients for media distribution. This put Stan and Joyce in an uncomfortable position; Agencies provided 90% of their business and were notoriously protective of their client relationships. Stan, Joyce and Mike (growing into his operations role under the tutelage of the family, at that time) handled this the only way they knew how to, by sticking to principals of honesty and full disclosure. Along with “undersell and over deliver” philosophy, their company was built on a solid foundation of trust so naturally these principals were adhered to. An understanding was eventually achieved based on the fact that the Advertiser/Client made the approach around the Agency to Airdate and not the other way around. Some advertisers have directly employed Airdate for decades. Ad Agencies couldn’t complain because: “The client always comes first”.

Airdate encountered and had to operate within a flurry of technical changes involving evolving tape formats that occurred between the 1974 and 1999:
This “Tech flurry” applied to Mastering, Transferring, Quality Control, Dubbing and Delivery. It changed slowly between 1974 and 1980, a little more rapidly between 1981 through to 1995, then exponentially between 1996 and present day. An important element of the Airdate story was the sudden passing of Stan Lata, in 1988 while in Las Vegas for the NAB Show.

The surviving family members including Joyce, Michael (and in early the early 2000’s) Nancy, assumed full operational and financial responsibility from that point forward.

Technical gear to QC, transfer, closed caption and delivery formats were often purchased in anticipation and in advance of client requirement. Technology quickly changed on several fronts throughout the years – blank media/quality control/delivery systems were constantly evolving. Each addition and modification had a hard cost and an expensive cycle of acquisition, training, deployment and wind-down. As tape media broadcast formats changed throughout the 80s and 90s it had to be repeated again and again.

…and then: The VIDEOTAPE supply vanished over a 90 day period in 2003!  With the abrupt demise of videotape after the Tsunami hit Japan and wiped out the majority of the world’s videotape supply, memory cards and hard drives had to be quickly worked into content distribution systems. New issues to solve for transfer, dub and quality control ensued. Delivery began to move out of the physical tape era by the early-90s to dedicated satellite and point-to-point digital, then into FTP and ISDN lines by the mid-90s and more recently to internet-based delivery systems after the millennium.

Post 2000, specialist networks known as content delivery platforms were created to help distribute content over the Internet by ensuring both high quality content availability and high performance for broadcast. Alternative technologies for commercial delivery included, content delivery platforms that created and syndicated content remotely as well as associated software, included hosted content management systems, (CMS) Digital Asset Management systems, (DAMs) and Media Asset Management systems. (MAMs)

AirDate’s changing technical mandate over the 1st 40 years: 1973-2013
Intake 16mm: Transfer, Quality Control, Dub & Deliver on 2 Inch Videotape (pre 1975)
Intake 2 inch: QC, Dub & Deliver on 2 inch. (1975 forward)
Intake 1 inch/2 Inch: QC, Dub & Deliver on 2 inch. (1980 forward)
Intake 1 inch/2 Inch: Dub & Deliver on 1 inch/2 inch (1981 forward)
Intake 1 Inch/BetaSP: Dub & Deliver: 1 inch/BetaSP (1988 forward)
Intake Digital Betacam/BetaSP: Dub & Deliver: BetaSP/1” Videotape (1991 forward)
Add Close-Captioning services while lobbying the Cdn Government to privatize it (1990-91)
Add “Fast Channel” for Mpeg2 conversion of analogue to Digital (1996-97)
Add Terrago wireless digital data for QC & Transfer (2001)
Wind down all tape-based operations change over to card and hard-drive (2003)
Add Standards Conversion package(s) (2005)
New QC Software Package Deployed (2010)
Digital Asset Management System selection and deployment (2010)

Let’s take one further look into Airdate, a business that has operated continuously for over 40 years. Airdate was fortunate to start with an operating line at 10X the requirement. One has to wonder; if during the flurry of tech change and the mounting operating costs that ensued; whether Mike Lata, formerly the unpaid intern, now the VP of Production, would say to his father if he saw him today: “Hey Dad, thanks for taking that $250,000 when you thought you were only at the bank to sign off on $25,000 – it came in handy”.

Next in the Series – Other firms in the sector to be featured and more technological changes ensue. The Media Distribution Services sector grows to serve greater demand for QC, language versioning, captioning for both hearing and visually impaired audiences and add to net and cloud delivery of all forms of TV Programming: Series, Specials, Documentaries, Features are adopted and incorporated by Content Distribution firms located in Toronto who specialize in delivery all over the world.


Footnote:
How the proliferation of TV commercial production and associated TV media buying affected the growth in demand for Media Distribution:

TV commercials have a short life-span for a variety of obvious reasons. New advertisers were consistently stepping forward into the hot marketplace that was TV advertising between 1970 and 2000. There was not a more effective advertising path for big budget mass market products and services than TV.
The advertising creation and production industry was in a golden age; fortunes were being made and there was huge growth in commercial creation, production and TV media buying. The chart below only covers 1995-2002 however the argument can be made that TV advertising was responsible for upwards of 65% of all advertising spending (5.25 billion in 1995 through to 7.5 billion in 2002 against Radio, Print and diverse outdoor advertising. We haven’t looked all the way back to 1970 but suggest an estimate of greater than 50% of the hundreds of millions spent on TV Advertising in Canada at that time would not be a stretch.

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