Emulating successful broadcast weather operations, Westwood One is going to pull its Metro Traffic service from 60 local operations to 13 regional hubs. That will allow a 15% reduction in force, and will ultimately result in $25M-$30M in annual savings. It will spend from $21M-$25M to get there, mostly in severance and real estate costs. In addition to lower personnel costs, much of the savings will come from a greatly reduced reliance on aircraft for information. A smorgasbord of new technologies will be used to enable the hub approach, including local scanners; public sector traffic data/camera images; ground and air assets; and local tipsters; and ISDN broadcast quality audio feeds will be used to get the info back out the door to client stations. New technologies will be added to the mix as they make economic sense or become available.
Use of hubs and technology will actually increase the capacity of Metro, which will now be able to provide 24/7 service to far more locations than before.
The impact will also be felt in the sales department. The old way was one force to sell local traffic; another to sell the WW1’s national networks. Now sales reps will be cross-trained to handle both types of accounts. As an example, if a local traffic specialist happens to be in a town where a Fortune 500 advertiser is HQ’d, then local sales reps will make themselves known to the national advertiser.
RBR/TVBR observation: The corporate mantra for quite some time has been to innovate or perish – of course, this mantra is easier intoned than it is accomplished. If nothing else, WW1 is innovating like crazy here, and even if the pullout from local offices seems counterintuitive, the numbers underpinning the move seem to make sense. Stay tuned.