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A connection for Granite, ACI.

Granite Broadcasting Corp. and Audio Communications Inc. (ACI) recently formed a joint venture to offer customized free and pay-per-call services for Granite's four television properties. The deal represents the first time a television group will offer such services as an ongoing part of its local programming schedules.

Granite and ACI forged the July agreement because executives felt that audiotext--delivering information and entertainment via telephone--could be used to extend a station's franchise while creating an additional revenue stream. Las Vegasbased ACI will act as the creative and technical experts in the partnership. New York-based Granite, ranked No. 24 on the 1992 BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 with sales of nearly $40 million, will create the sales opportunities. The Corporate Trust and Agency Group, a division of Bankers Trust, will serve as financial and administrative adviser.

Alan Zaretsky, ACI's director of sales and marketing, says ACI will finance the projected $50,000 cost of setting up the new call-in services. Pay-per-call services such as updated sports scores, subscription sales and merchandise coupon books will be offered, along with 800 numbers for basic information, such as weather and traffic.

"We want to be ubiquitous in the household," says Granite Chairman Don Cornwell. "This is another means of putting our products into channels of distribution in our local communities."

The audiotext services will be customized for each of the Granite stations: KNTV, an ABC affiliate serving parts of California; WPTA-TV, an ABC affiliate in Fort Wayne, Ind.; WEEK-TV, an NBC affiliate in Peoria-Bloomington, III.; and KBJR-TV, an NBC affiliate serving Duluth, Minn., and Superior, Wis. Considered a pilot program for television and cable nationwide, the deal could trigger other television station groups to follow suit.

The agreement doesn't appear to have had a major effect on Granite's stock. On June 26, the stock traded at 4 3/4 on the NASDAQ exchange. On July 28, it traded at 5 1/2. But Zaretsky says, "After the first full year of operation, we anticipate that this should generate a half a million dollars in gross revenues." Cornwell says that after operating expenses, Granite (60%) and ACI (40%)will split additional net profits.

While Zaretsky admits that these services are not for everyone, "[The goal is] to be able to deliver valuable information in a comfortable, convenient and costeffective way," Zaretsky says.

--Eileen Davis
COPYRIGHT 1992 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Granite Broadcasting Corp., Audio Communications Inc. form venture
Author:Davis, Eileen
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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