The downbeat mood that characterized the past two National Association of Broadcasters conventions appears to be on an upswing for this year’s meeting, set for April 17-22.
Most stations and groups are ready to start spending again, putting behind them for the moment the war in Iraq and the sour economy that cast long, dark shadows over the past two shows.
For many buyers, the previous years’ spending slowdown means more equipment now needs to be replaced. In other cases, new tools are now available at attractive prices. The themes are convergence and integration, as technology companies aim to connect different processes to manage ads and news.
Here’s a roundup of some product introductions and upgrades in key areas for broadcasters.
With several station groups slated to roll off their current traffic system contracts in the next year or two, the marketplace has been heating up as leading vendors compete for their business. The trend has been to extend the reach of traffic systems beyond simply managing commercials. Nowadays, traffic vendors are recognizing the need to offer enterprisewide business intelligence systems that allow a station or group to wrap its arms around the complete revenue picture behind its inventory.
Optimal Solutions, known as OSI, has added more sales management tools that enable stations to better use their inventory and to eyeball revenue trends.
“We’re seeing a lot more serious buyers than we have before,” said Ed Adams, president of OSI.
Marketron said it plans to introduce a number of additional features over the next few months. The company is enhancing the integration between sales and traffic components and building its technology to allow two-way communications between the stations and the advertiser and agency systems, said Mike Jackson, the company’s chairman and CEO.
Connecting different systems that have historically worked separately can eliminate redundancy, reduce errors and allow a more efficient snapshot of the station’s revenue from a single source, Mr. Jackson said. “When we look at our business, we don’t look at being a traffic provider, but being a business management solution company.
“I think there is only so much you can do when you link systems together that are developed under different roofs. All our systems are designed with the same architecture for sales, traffic and business management,” he said.
Encoda Systems, still the leading traffic provider, has extended its relationship with sales and research system company OneDomain to jointly develop products and create a tighter bond between traffic and sales, said Bob Duncan, senior VP, sales and marketing, at Encoda.
“The sales functionality has become much more important and the integration into the traffic system makes that more powerful,” he said. “It’s about the ability to squeeze every dollar out.”
Buyers also expect to see WideOrbit’s demonstration of its new research and proposal system, with the working name WO Sales +, which is built into WideOrbit’s existing traffic solution. Instead of managing sales, traffic and billing, the new system will link those components with additional research and proposal capability. “You can move inventory week to week, and advertisers have a better chance of having their spot run at the time and rate that they paid for,” said Eric Mathewson, the company’s founder and CEO.
In addition, VCI announced it will introduce its Orion product at NAB. Orion is designed to provide pricing and revenue trend information.
Several leading equipment vendors are introducing new products and upgrades to existing ones that connect different TV station processes under a larger umbrella.
Thomson will introduce its high-definition TV Station in a Kit solution, which wraps the company’s existing HD products in an affordable way, enabling smaller stations to get into HD production more easily. The product bundle includes two HD cameras, a router, an HD-capable server and other equipment. Priced under $370,000, it’s designed to provide an entry point into the HD space, said Jeff Rosica, VP, worldwide strategic marketing and business development, at Thomson.
Pinnacle Systems has integrated the MXF file format, which is becoming a standard file exchange format for broadcast equipment, into its editing systems, graphics systems and servers. “I would say the biggest thing is we have delivered on the promise of a truly integrated, networked solution so you can do a mix of editing, playout and graphics,” said Al Kovalick, senior strategist with Pinnacle.
The new Artbox product from Proximity manages the process of graphics creation under one roof and in one box. The system converts graphics between different formats, catalogues them to make them easily searchable and retrievable, and tracks the process of designing graphics for use in newscasts. Those functions were previously handled on different software and hardware systems, said Luke Tristram, Proximity’s CEO.
Leitch plans to demonstrate its newsroom workflow system NewsNet, which integrates with newsroom computer systems to handle ingest, browse, edit and rundown functions in a newsroom.
Avid’s latest version of its iNews newsroom computer systems includes greater integration with the Avid editing system, NewsCutter. Users can start editing their scripts and video immediately with the click of a button rather than inputting a name or a tape ID, said David Schleifer, director of broadcast and workgroup at Avid. The newest version also includes support for the Linux operating system.
Associated Press’ ENPS newsroom computer system includes some new functionality, such as enabling stations to add local content to any of the 12 AP tickers, said Bill Burke, AP product manager. In addition, assignment managers can send messages directly from ENPS to a reporter in the field via a wireless phone or personal digital assistant.
Sundance Digital will introduce an interface from its automation system to the Pathfire digital delivery system. Stations that rely on Sundance for content playback will be able to connect directly to Pathfire, the system that digitally sends and receives content.
Omnibus will showcase enhancements to its automation system, such as the ability for the system to be easily configured from a user’s desktop.
On the weather front, Vizrt will introduce a new version of its vizweather product, a 3-D, real-time program for weather graphics creation that allows data such as temperature and wind speed to be displayed automatically.
AccuWeather plans to introduce WeatherHost, which offers computer animation of a station’s weather talent on the station’s Web site. “It’s a great way to keep the station’s brand in front of the viewer even when they are away from the TV set,” said Lee Rainey, VP, marketing, for AccuWeather.