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Star Power

VCI is promising users a star attraction at NAB: Orion. The new product is intended to make it easier to manage sales inventory and sales reporting.

"It's based on the latest-generation language and database products," says VCI President and CEO Lowell Putnam. "Technical installation is straightforward, and it can be run as an 'ASP'-style application where the users are remote from the server or as an application that runs locally on their workstation."

Orion will work with VCI's Sales Desk automation system, which runs on standard Microsoft Windows servers and uses other off-the-shelf components. Orion is just one of the tools VCI is delivering to give its customers a competitive advantage, says Putnam.

The other tools are part of the company's Analytical Toolkit, available free to existing customers. Among them are a revenue trend analyzer and an activity "ticker."

One of the problems sales managers face, Putnam notes, is that analysis is often reactive. For example, they look at weekly or daily sales data to see how it compared with last year's sales. Revenue Trend Analyzer is intended to make managers more proactive. "It can show the buy trends for advertisers in advance and compare the current year to prior years. Sales managers can also look at the buying patterns for key dayparts, helping them plan price changes in advance of demand on inventory instead of afterward."

Activity Ticker gives sales managers a real-time picture of contract activity. "The data is broken out by the months affected and with drilldown capability throughout the station to office, salesperson, and advertiser," Putnam explains. "The data can be charted or exported in real time."

Managers can also customize the ticker to show only the contracts they want. "They can make more-effective decisions, a key competitive advantage," says Putnam. "We have similar tools for managing rate cards, setting pricing, and other areas."

VCI is also looking to expand improvements beyond its own products. Like Encoda, the company will head to NAB with its products more closely tied to OneDomain's (ODI's) Clearview sales-proposal system. Putnam says, "When changes are made to address records, they automatically flow back into ODI. Inventory capacity and sellout in ODI are also automatically updated throughout the day from VCI.

"ODI also pulls directly from our reconciled spot data," he adds. "When you combine that with its ability to process overnight ratings, this makes for a powerful competitive advantage for a station."