Hearst-Argyle Puts Itself Into Orbit

New traffic system leads to enhanced functionality
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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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