VCI Extends Across 56 Stations

Traffic-and-biller establishes largest deployment

VCI Solutions of Springfield, Mass., is extending its Orion software across a network of 56 TV stations in the Newport Television group. Kansas City, Mo. -based Newport was formed last year by Providence Equity Partners and Sandy DiPasquale to acquire the TV stations of Clear Channel.

“Clear Channel started looking at VCI,” said Sarah Foss, VCI’s president and CEO. “They wanted transparency, sales, pricing, inventory and development. We were doing that with Clear Channel, and we’ll be picking up eight more stations here. We’ll be live with the system by the end of January ’09. It’s a fast turnaround from previous product.”

Orion allows network access to traffic and sales data, which can then be manipulated and evaluated in a variety of ways. Newport’s 56 stations are in 24 markets, and the group needed a system by which corporate could immediately evaluate and compare the performance of its stations.

“This gives them the opportunity to analyze the pricing, and improve… say, if one market is doing so much better, they can analyze why,” Foss said. “They can, with VCI, look at yield pricing, inventory, and how placement maximizes revenue. It gives them better visibility into inventory, and reduces make-goods.”

The process was originally done on paper, then Excel, and now more frequently, on high-end traffic-and-billing systems, particularly since stations are more likely to be owned by groups than single entities.

“There’s a shift we’ve seen in our customer base, over the past couple of years,” Foss said. “The autonomy that stations have had has shifted to a larger corporation. Pricing decisions are being driven that way.”

She also noted that there are companies that make general purpose traffic-and-billing systems, but media has particular requirements. Regulatory programming considerations for one thing.

“We know how to analyze program advertising and inventory considerations specific to media,” Foss said. “That’s why PeopleSoft and some of the other systems aren’t in media.”

Installation started in November and three channels in Mobile, Ala., were the first to go live on Dec. 1; all stations will be live by the end of January