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Autocue system to rival iNews, ENPS

Aug 12, 2002  •  Post A Comment

ENPS and iNews have become synonymous with newsroom production systems in much the same way that Kleenex is identified with tissue. But the two entrenched media players are now facing competition from an upstart.
Autocue Systems of Charlotte, N.C., has been making headway in the marketplace over the past year and recently announced a host of deals to install its QNews newsroom production system in broadcast stations.
“We do have a lot of momentum and are really poised to get some market share,” said Dave Polyard, VP of sales and marketing for Autocue. He previously handled sales and marketing for AP’s ENPS.
Autocue announced last week that KSHB-TV in Kansas City, Mo., will install QNews for a planned September launch. That comes on the heels of June and July installations of its system at three Jefferson-Pilot Communications stations: WWBT-TV in Richmond, Va.; WBTV in Charlotte, N.C.; and WCSC-TV in Charleston, S.C.
Despite the momentum, Autocue will have a long row to hoe if it is to become a solid No. 3 player in this field. QNews, which used to be known as DCM, was introduced two years ago and now is found at about two dozen broadcasters. There are still about 120 installations of DCM, which is an old-fashioned Unix-based application.
By contrast, AP counts more than 400 ENPS installations and more than 200 AP NewsCenter installations worldwide. NewsCenter is AP’s legacy newsroom production system. Avid’s iNews is in use at more than 700 sites worldwide.
That’s a hefty list, but Mr. Polyard doesn’t expect to lure those iNews and ENPS stations into his camp. Instead, he is aiming to convert legacy systems to QNews, such as Autocue’s DCM, AP’s NewsCenter and Avid’s Avstar and Newstar.
For instance, KATV, Little Rock, Ark., will go online with QNews in September, an upgrade from an Avid system, while KTAL-TV, Shreveport, La., is switching from NewsCenter to QNews. “That’s a big chunk of market share for us [to go after],” he said.
While a few stations may switch, there aren’t many compelling reasons to, said David Schleifer, director of Avid Broadcast in Tewksbury, Mass. That’s because broadcasters aren’t merely interested in stand-alone newsroom computer systems anymore. They want systems to be integrated into the larger news management structure, he said. “There isn’t enough room for someone to go out and build enough market share,” he said. “The market is saturated.”
Like any basic newsroom production system, QNews incorporates script writing, transfer of scripts into a user configurable rundown, assignment editor functionality for planning, script archiving, remote connectivity for journalists in the field and low-resolution browsing on the desktop. In addition, QNews can handle automation of newsroom devices such as servers and editing systems without the use of an automation vendor such as Harris, Omnibus or Parkervision, Mr. Polyard said.
In addition, because of Autocue’s legacy-it has been selling TelePrompTers since 1955-QNews interfaces with TelePrompTers so they can trigger events such as rolling a piece of video from a server, he said. Finally, while QNews can be MOS-compatible, it doesn’t rely on MOS. Devices like servers are controlled through their native language, he said.
Jefferson-Pilot evaluated all three vendors’ newsroom systems over the last few years before it opted for QNews, said Henry Boze, VP engineering/TV with Jefferson-Pilot in Richmond, Va.
The one drawback to QNews is that it does not include an election or school closing software package, he said. His stations instead rely on their legacy DCM systems for that data. Autocue does provide software for elections and school closings, but it necessitates a separate server to allow for redundancy, Mr. Polyard said.
KSHB also reviewed all three systems and chose QNews, since the station has been using its predecessor DCM since 1993.