A New Weapon for Grabbing Viewers' Attention

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Equity Broadcasting and Spinner Network Systems are launching a system that they believe provides advertisers with a new way to enhance their message and stations with a new way to enhance revenues.

The system creates a one-sixth strip below a commercial where the advertiser can write text messages providing additional information. For example, a pizza chain or retailer can use the area to tout specials at a specific franchise.

"The client can position the text and choose the font, styles, colors and any other logos," says Steve Soldinger, Equity Broadcasting vice president, television.

Equity is using the system at five stations: KWBF(TV) Little Rock, Ark.; KFDF(TV) and KPBI-TV Fayetteville, Ark.; WPXS(TV) St. Louis; and KTWU(TV) Casper, Wyo. The system requires the advertiser to have Spinner client software on a PC or laptop and Internet access. That software creates the content and sends it to a hub in Little Rock that is connected to servers at each station. That server matches up the content with the commercial for broadcast.

Spinner CEO Steve Brant and President George Brust came up with the idea about five years ago in an effort to combat declining TV sales revenues. "We saw that national advertising rates were off 30%-40%," says Brant. "We took two years to research and study the concept and also asked clients what they liked and disliked about TV. One thing they said was they were tired of buying based on Nielsen rating points; they wanted something new."

Brant and Brust found a similar frustration with station sales teams. Sales forces were looking for ways to help bring revenues back up, and Spinner provided an answer.

Advertisers are charged for each time they "spin," typically around $50 for spinning on a local spot. With enough clients spinning, revenue can amount to about $600,000 a year. The hardware and software is free to the station and clients. Spinner Networks gets about one-fifth of the revenue it generates.

Selling Spinner is a fairly straightforward process. Once it's up and running, the sales executives and others at the station can be sent e-mail notification when spins are aired.

The stations have already found believers, with 12 clients using the system. "It has allowed us to get certain advertisers that we had not been able to get before," says Soldinger, "and we also get a larger portion of their budgets."

The system is expected to be in place at 14 stations by the end of the year and also to expand beyond Equity Broadcasting, which has a stake in the company.

"We didn't want to roll it out in major markets that would be very visible," says Brant. "We did a one-year beta test and solved many of the issues you don't see until a system is up and running."

Giving an advertiser easy access to the airwaves could cause problems, but the system has safeguards against inappropriate language. The software also has a test mode so that users can check the Spinner message to see how it will look.

Advertising is only the beginning of applications. Weather alerts, financial alerts, and even sports and news information can be delivered. The company also has a deal with the National Weather Service to provide real-time temperature and precipitation information.

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