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Philly Interconnect Gets Hardwired

The Philadelphia Interconnect is set to become a hardwired interconnect, rounding out the list of the top 10 media markets.

"We're creating a hard interconnect as of June 26," said vice president and general manager Jim Klunder. "We're the last of the top 10 markets to create a single order [and] single invoice and the whole nine yards."

Going the one-stop-shopping route is "our major focus in time for the convention and the elections."

The Republican National Convention will be held in Philadelphia July 31 through Aug. 3. The Democrats will gather Aug. 14 through 17 in Los Angeles.

A hard interconnect runs commercials simultaneously throughout its DMA and any combination of insertable networks. It requires a single tape and produces one bill. On a soft interconnect, spots might not run simultaneously and the traffic-and-billing process is more complicated, involving multiple tapes and affidavits.

"We hope to see big [ad-sales] gains from putting this market together," Klunder said. That's what happened when hard interconnects were established in other markets, he said.

Even before that, sales were brisk, Klunder said. For the initial quarter, sales were 40 percent higher than the same period in 1999. April was "unbelievable-we doubled sales versus a year ago," he noted.

With many political races due in Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware, Klunder is confident that the interconnect will attract political dollars. The GOP convention should generate a lot of ssues advertising and interest from regional and national clients eager to target convention attendees.

The Philadelphia Interconnect is the third-largest in the country, with 1.8 million cable subscribers, trailing only the New York Interconnect and Adlink in Los Angeles and slightly leading its counterparts in Chicago and Boston. Overall, Philadephia is the No. 4 DMA.

Klunder said his interconnect will use StarNet Inc.'s "MarketConnect Technologies" distribution system and deploy General Electric Co.'s two-way VSAT (very small aperture terminal) satellite system to link all 55 headends.

The installation process began about two months ago, and 15 headends are ready so far.

Once everything is in place, the next important step will be to market its availability to the advertising community.

The technology the interconnect is assembling is much the same as that deployed by spot-cable rep firm National Cable Communications. However, different insertion vendors are involved-StarNet for the Philadelphia Interconnect and SeaChange International Inc. and nCUBE for NCC.

Klunder is among those who said they have not heard anything more since January about CableUSA Inc.'s proposal for a nationwide ad-sales interconnect in the top 30 markets. "I'm not sure that's such a great idea, anyway, from our end or the buyers' end," he added.

Operators and interconnects are reluctant to surrender inventory to a national interconnect, Klunder noted. In the past two years, cable-network affiliates have pressed programmers for more local avails to sell.

"I don't see [a national interconnect] having legs going forward," he added, especially now that the concept seems to have been usurped by the trend toward MSO clusters and consolidated markets.