TECH SPOTLIGHT

AP, Avid Battle For Newsroom System Share

That's good news for broadcasters as the rivalry has yielded numerous new features and capabilities that facilitate the production of news not just for conventional broadcast, but also now for the Web, mobile devices and social media.

The computer-based TV newsroom system dates back to the 1970s. In fact, it was the BASYS system, created by Ed Grudizen and Peter Kolstad in Silicon Valley, that helped make CNN possible in 1980.

Today, that same system lives on — through various corporate owners — as Avid’s iNEWS. Avid acquired BASYS in 1994 and has been updating and enhancing the software ever since.

But despite the legacy Avid doesn’t own the market for news production software. It shares it mostly with the Associated Press and its 14-year-old ENPS system. Avid wouldn’t discuss its market share or reveal its customer list, but the AP was happy to claim world leadership in the market and 50% share in the U.S. Among AP’s clients: Gannett, Hearst, Raycom Media and Media General.

Whatever the market split, the two companies compete aggressively, each looking for an edge. The rivalry has yielded numerous new features and capabilities that facilitate the production of news not just for conventional broadcast, but also now for the Web, mobile devices and social media.

“From a workflow standpoint, someone working on the Web who sees something done for broadcast can simply go to the broadcast rundown and drag that story into the Web rundown and it will be converted to Web content in seconds,” says Wayne Ludkey, ENPS director of sales for the Americas. “The idea of ENPS is to simplify things for the user.”

At Avid, James Frantzreb, senior market segment manager for media enterprise, says its Interplay media and production asset management system is a major differentiator. It can extend content to more contributors, allowing multiple team members to work on the same project simultaneously, he says.

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Both companies have updated their software to work with Apple’s iPads and iPhones, revolutionizing the way news organizations can work, allowing reporters to write, see footage and control other elements from anywhere.

Charles Gray, director of new media content at Raycom Media, whose 31 stations have long used ENPS, says the system’s table story viewer is one of the nicest new features, allowing anchors at several stations to use iPads instead of paper for news scripts.

With the iPad viewer feature, which also works on Android tablets, anchors and field reporters can get faster updates of their scripts. ENPS can simultaneously put the same material on a station’s teleprompters through MOS.

“We are rolling the viewer feature out from anchor to anchor. We have several newscasts that are now, for the most part, paperless,” Gray says. “The old image of the anchor on the set turning the page has been updated with the more modern image of the anchor reading an iPad.”

Beyond that, Gray says Raycom likes that ENPS can be used to share content among its stations. “If we have a story from one of our stations in South Carolina, our stations in Georgia and North Carolina might be interested in it from a regional perspective,” he says. “It’s easy for them to see the story and get the details from the system.”

Also, Gray says ENPS interfaces nicely with the group’s other broadcast products through MOS. “If the third party plays by all the rules of the standard, it can work very well.”

On the Avid iNEWS side is Morgan Murphy’s WKBT La Crosse, Wis. “Many of our Avid upgrades haven’t been so much feature changes as performance enhancements,” says Anne Paape, the station’s news director. “I don’t know what we would have done today without them. For us, today, iNEWS is the glue that has held us together.”

Adam Hatfield, assignment editor at WKBT, says iNEWS has been helpful at the station “in terms of stacking the show, dropping stories in, taking stories out and floating stories if you need to.” In addition, he adds, it allows the station’s crews to rise to the challenge of covering fast-breaking stories.

One key difference between the two systems is the way they are marketed to broadcasters. AP offers a monthly subscription, while Avid sells its system for a single fee. Neither vendor would talk actual prices, saying they depend of a number of factors.

“Our [EPNS] license can be bought by the station or group,” Ludkey says. “We price it by market size and number of workstations. Because it is an ongoing monthly license fee, that allows us to allocate a significant amount of money ongoing to R&D.”

Frantzreb sees it differently. “We sell our [iNEWS] system, as opposed to leasing it. We hear from a lot of customers and they prefer the buy option. They find in the long run, it’s a better return on investment.”

Both systems are sold as software and the computers that run the applications are specified and purchased separately by the users. In both systems, some parts run as applications and other parts are on the Web.

Frantzreb says the iNEWS app for the Blackberry sets it apart. “It’s a native application on the Blackberry and if you lose connectivity on the phone you can keep writing the story,” he said. “If you lose your connection, which happens a lot, you just re-connect and the story gets uploaded. Our competition can’t do that since theirs is Web-based.”

Both systems have plug-ins or modules from hundreds of third-party companies. Now, services like Twitter and YouTube are ingested just as the AP or UPI wire services are. And ENPS allows journalists to do “authorized” Tweets from the system that can be tracked by station management.

“ENPS will never be as full featured as some of the dedicated Twitter applications that journalists are using now like TweetDeck, but it’s not meant to be,” says Gray. “It’s a very simple thing that television producers can fit into the Twitter game right there in the environment they are most use to.”

Both companies claim to be doing well financially in today’s tight television station market. “Avid has a very strong market share in the U.S. and it’s growing,” Frantzreb says. “We have very high scalability, from the smallest to the largest customer. We have a simple user interface that doesn’t require many steps. We have excellent redundancy and reliability, and we can support hundreds of third-party applications and systems.”

And at AP, Ludkey said the news cooperative is getting a new influx of business from stations with non-ENPS systems that haven’t been upgraded for many years. “As a result, they are looking at us,” he said. “We are doing very well.”


Comments (1)

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Eric Greenberg says:

August 19, 2011 at 8:29 am

Very good article, thanks. I just regret that Dalet is not part of this article. With 100+ news system deployed worldwide and more than 15000 workstations, Dalet is also a leading provider of NRCS integrated with MAM and news production that innovated significantly with regards to production workflows,story centric concepts, MAM and distribution.


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