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Cable TV has started its quest to reduce the mountainous paperwork of local buys and make that medium more appealing to agencies.

Decrying the fact that major ad agencies have to deal with up to 20,000 pieces of paper monthly to buy spot cable, Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau-in conjunction with agencies, reps and cable operators-is pushing for electronic data interchange.

A newly formed subcommittee of CAB's committee on local advertising technology has begun hammering out the details.

"I anticipate it will be an 18-to-24-month process," said Howard Nass, senior VP-director of local broadcast at FCB/Leber Katz Partners, New York, and co-chairman of the subcommittee.


"I think the cable industry is serious about spending the money to upgrade the infrastructure to make this happen," added Jim Birschbach, corporate director of ad sales at Tele-Communications, Inc., the nation's largest cable operator. Mr. Birschbach is the subcommittee's other co-chairman.

Mr. Birschbach is convinced that if EDI is implemented, "it could mean significantly more dollars spent on cable because we'd be so agency friendly."

In 1995, advertisers spent $1.4 billion on local and national cable spot buys, according to cable analyst Paul Kagan Associates. That number is projected to reach $1.7 billion this year.

Larry Zipin, corporate director of ad sales for Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable operator, and technology committee chairman, said implementing EDI would likely lead those agencies predisposed to buy cable to purchase more of it.

Furthermore, "it gives us a competitive edge against local broadcast," which hasn't moved to EDI, said Mr. Zipin.


For his part, Mr. Nass said, "I would hope that knowing local cable is getting its act together would light a fire under the local broadcast community and they would move on EDI as well."

The EDI subcommittee, which first convened last month, will develop design standards that can be implemented by the various parties.

"It might be that what we have to do is tailor what the operators and reps do to fit into the existing systems at the agencies," Mr. Zipin said.

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