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AP rolls out broadcast news services

Nov 18, 2002  •  Post A Comment

AP Broadcast has introduced a series of new products to enhance TV stations’ Web sites and augment their on-air news with additional information.
The new services are Streaming Headline News, which consists of 10 headline tickers for on-air, and CustomWIRE, an automated Web updating service. The news delivery systems, rolled out over the summer, are state-of-the-art. The principle of pooling stories continues to power the subindustry, which the AP founded 150 years ago to solve the problem of cutthroat reporters racing each other in rowboats in New York Harbor to be the first to get the news coming in with the ships from Europe.
AP tested the products in the spring, with the commercial rollout of CustomWIRE following in August. AP unveiled the ticker service in July with WAFB-TV, the CBS affiliate in Baton Rouge, La. Raycom’s KSLA-TV in Shreveport, La., is the latest station to sign up for AP’s TV Tickers. The service started in September.
The ticker rollout is timely, since national cable networks beefed up their crawling headlines after Sept. 11, and local stations have been eager to capitalize on that trend, said Greg Groce, director of business operations and development at AP Broadcast.
Updating tickers is a labor-intensive task for TV stations and that’s why AP saw an opportunity to introduce a tool for local stations that would handle the work of keeping the ticker current. “We wanted to introduce something flexible and automated with state, local and national news,” he said. “We were running tickers on our Web site and this is an extension.”
The ticker package includes 10 items in each category. The news items are 64 to 90 characters in length and are updated around the clock. The categories include: U.S. and international news, state news, Spanish-language news, business, sports, entertainment, strange news, health and wellness and politics. The headlines are for on-air and online use.
WAFB uses the service when it re-airs its newscast on its cable channel. “It allows me to get the most up-to-date information on there,” said Nick Simonette, VP and general manager for WAFB. The service has been welcomed by viewers, said Mr. Simonette, who has received e-mail and phone calls from viewers and has conducted research indicating that viewers like the service. The automation is a plus, he said.
The cost for the tickers is market-based and ranges from a few hundred dollars to a little more than $1,000 per month. AP’s CustomWIRE is an automated Web content service that provides updated multimedia news for a station’s Web site. That includes streaming media and audio components that can be incorporated into the look and feel of a station’s Web site, Mr. Groce said.
Such content would be expensive for a station to produce, he added. “We would work with stations to come up with templates to define the elements they want,” he said. “That’s what makes this distinct. We combined all these elements together-text, graphics, streaming audio and video.”
Updating a Web site regularly is a laborious process, and many stations are still cutting and pasting AP stories onto their Web sites, he said. CustomWIRE allows a station to focus its resources on local news and lets the AP handle the other news. AP handles the presentation and updating of the news and multimedia components. The cost varies from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars in larger markets. The service is delivered via the Internet.
The Internet content will likely be attractive to local stations, since content is the name of the game online, said Jim Lichtenstein, founder of Assignmenteditor.com and a consultant to local TV stations. “The bottom line with Internet sites is you want to keep people glued there,” he said. “You don’t just want them to look and leave. If there is a product that can keep them glued to a site, it could work.”
However, on-air tickers will be a tougher sell. News managers and directors want to have the final say over everything that goes on air, Mr. Lichtenstein said. While an AP product is trustworthy, many managers could be nervous about not controlling the content of what’s scrolling across the bottom of the screen, he said.
Smaller stations are more likely to opt for it. “They tend to go for things that will help them fill their air,” he said.