Product spotlight: Stars II+

May 20, 2002  •  Post A Comment

What it is: Stars II +, an integrated traffic, sales and automation system from VCI in Springfield, Mass.
What it does: The system, introduced in 1998, manages and automates commercial spots for on-air systems. It books the orders, schedules the spots, collects the media and instructions from agencies, creates the automation playlists, reconciles what was aired with what was scheduled, produces the bills, manages collections and generates reports, said W. Lowell Putnam, president and CEO of VCI. At the National Association of Broadcasters convention this year, the company announced a series of new upgrades to the system.
New features and benefits: The system now has the ability to e-mail reports so a station can send an agency an invoice as a secure PDF file rather than mail or fax it, Mr. Putnam said. The automated interface can link with other automation systems. The reporting module allows for more specific reports and the scheduling of those reports. The system includes integrated electronic contracting to take in contracts from rep firms for national and local ads.
“We tried to design it so a skilled user will be able to make more informed decisions and make them faster than on any other systems. It lets them operate closer to deadline and lets them work and position inventory logs so they can get more ads into their daily schedules,” Mr. Putnam said. “Traffic is always working ahead, so they double up their log production by midweek in order to get done by Friday. But they don’t want to turn down an order, even if it is on a day that has been finalized. We are able to allow people to work ahead without finalizing and to be able to easily accept changes and additions, even after the log has been produced.”
Target market: The product is designed for TV stations and cable channels. VCI has already upgraded 130 TV stations and cable networks to the newest version and added nine new sites in March and April. Report on Business Television, Canada’s business cable network, uses the system, which interfaces with the channel’s Florical automation system, to manage the airing of commercials and programming from midnight to 5 a.m. weekdays and on weekends, when it has no staff.
Cost: The price depends on the number of users, options and sites, but a basic package could start at $2,000 to $3,000 per month, Mr. Putnam said, with higher-end packages running into the tens of thousands of dollars per month.#