Videa’s President Discusses the Future of Automated Sales

And what TV should embrace so it doesn’t lose out


Specs
Who Shereta Williams
Current gig President, Videa
Old gig Vp, corporate development, Cox Media Group
Age 41 

Services have launched in the past and been unable to make a go of it. Why will yours succeed?
If you look at why the attempts failed, there wasn't a lot of buy-in on the station side. If you look at the typical station, they have high sell-out rates and they get premium unit rates, so they weren't really looking for another sales channel. But in recent times, brands have had different choices for how they aggregate targeted audiences. Programmatic online and other sales channels have made them more focused on measurement, targeting, attribution. These are things that TV has to embrace or risk losing out to mediums that do.

Connect the dots for us. You started out as a farm girl in Georgia and got an electrical engineering degree from MIT. Then you worked in M&A at Lazard Frères. Now you're at Videa, an automated ad-selling service for spot TV that's part of Cox Media Group. How do the many faces of Shereta Williams speak to what gets you excited?
The common thread for me has been the desire to always understand complex systems and find a way to make them work better. If you think about it, farming, engineering, finance and technology—at their core they're all basically problem solving and critical thinking. I'm also equal parts geek and nature lover, which may seem like a contradiction, but for me the best technology solutions are the most natural ones.

You've been incubating Videa for a while. When does it go live?
We launched our beta product this past December and we're going to launch our Version 1 commercial product this coming June.

Who are your partners?
We are working with three major buying agencies: Carat and its new business unit, Amplifi, along with Starcom. We are also working with CoxReps and five broadcast station groups: Cox Media Group, Gannett, Graham Media, Hearst and Raycom. We are in discussions with many more.

How much has Cox invested in Videa?
The number we tend to tell folks is north of $10 million.

Finish this sentence: The most common misperception about Videa is …
There are two common misperceptions. One is that we only work with Cox stations, and we don't. There's also the common misperception about everyone in the space—not just us—that programmatic sales, or automated sales, is just about real-time bidding. And with us that's not the case. Our model is a fixed-price, forward-reserve model that's similar to how TV is purchased today.

How many people are on your staff?
Sixty-five.

Are you still hiring?
Yes. Aggressively. We started with three people in January of last year.

How many people will be on board when you're fully staffed up?
We'll be well over 100, that's for sure.

What's your long-range plan? Will Videa start tackling sales for other forms of media?
Our goal is to stay on the sales side. We'll start with spot TV, but as you know most broadcasters have digital inventory. So we'll look to be a yield management solution for them in a holistic way.