Hearst-Argyle Puts Itself Into Orbit
New traffic system leads to enhanced functionality
By Ken Kerschbaumer -- Broadcasting & Cable, 1/16/2005 7:00:00 PM
When Hearst-Argyle made the decision to switch its 26 stations from the Columbine traffic system to a new one from Wide Orbit, the broadcast group was well aware of the potential headaches. But with 12 stations converted and 14 to go, Kathleen Keefe, Hearst-Argyle vice president, sales, says the transition is going well.
“It's labor-intensive and painstaking,” she says. “But the Wide Orbit system is more modern, and the improved functionality makes it well worth the effort.”
Topping the list of Wide Orbit's innovative capabilities is the ability to see real-time data. Group-wide revenue information is updated constantly, and Keefe considers that feature alone significant.
Another big advantage is that Wide Orbit is Windows-based, meaning that station personnel no longer have to make key changes in certain situations, such as when a spot is going to run. “Now we can click and drag the spots from one log to another,” Keefe says; the Columbine system required spots to be preempted and then rebooked. “It's a tremendous labor-saving device.”
Station feedback has also been enthusiastic about the ability to more easily reserve bookend spots. “The traffic system automatically places them for us,” says Keefe.
When all is said and done, she expects the group to be better at managing its inventory and anticipating what the demand will be versus what has been sold. “From a corporate perspective,” she says, “I get to see it in an aggregate, which I hadn't been able to do before.”
The next challenge for Hearst-Argyle is to implement electronic invoicing, a move that will make order placing, tracking and reconciliation a great deal more accurate. “We're trying to figure out the problems that remain to get that done, not the least of which are the legacy systems on both sides of the selling equation,” Keefe says. “By putting us in a more modern system, we have a lot more options as to how to integrate into the agency side.”
Once that new system is in place (and, given the hurdles, it could be a while), Keefe envisions productivity gains for both the seller and buyer. “They can actually spend more time on the buys as opposed to cranking them out, and it also makes TV spots more efficient and competitive as a medium.”
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