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Power Play

Turner says what it has to sell deserves top dollar 2/29/2004 07:00:00 PM Eastern

Cable Inches Up

Cable Inches Up

The tide is turning, albeit slowly. In the 2003 upfront, TBS and TNT brought in an estimated $760 million to $800 million in revenue. Ad-supported cable networks commanded a 50.3 share of prime time viewing, leaving the seven broadcast networks a 44.6 share. But the battle between Turner nets and the broadcasters isn't a clear cable victory.

In the key 18-49 demo, TNT's prime time audience grew 13% last year compared with 2002, according to Nielsen. Broadcast results were mixed. NBC was down 15%, and CBS slipped 1%. Fox was up 8%, and ABC ticked up 3%.

However, TNT is growing from a smaller base—up to about 1 million 18- to 49 year-olds—than the broadcast network audiences.

On TBS, 18-49 ratings dipped 7%, but delivery to its target 18- to 34-year-olds rose 3%. In that lucrative demo, NBC was off 16%, and CBS down 4%. Fox climbed 10%, and ABC was up 2%.

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Cable Inches Up

Going into the upfront season, Turner Broadcasting is preaching a new message: The industry is now a "one-television world," and viewers don't see a difference between cable and broadcast. Turner ad-sales execs hope the advertising community gets with the program.

As they prep their pitch to agency planners and clients, B&C got an exclusive peek at the presentation and strategy for directing broadcast dollars to TBS Superstation and TNT. "As ratings disappear elsewhere in this TV universe, Turner's ratings continue to grow," says Turner Entertainment Sales President David Levy. "In this marketplace, that is a substantial statement."

Agencies, are you listening? Broadcast ratings, the cable giant notes, are tumbling. The audience is aging. And many of the shows broadcasters touted as the next big thing were history in weeks.

But on TBS and TNT—
so the Turner argument goes—
there's big-name product and stability. The channels boast proven hits. TNT's drama roster leads with Law & Order
and recent acquisition Without a Trace, while TBS runs stellar comedies, like Seinfeld
and, come June, Sex and the City. Both channels also offer big theatricals, and TNT runs blue-chip sports with the NBA and NASCAR. And there's a smattering of original series.

Of course, even a mediocre broadcast show usually delivers bigger numbers. Network execs don't discourage advertisers from buying broadcast. They just think they should invest more in Turner. "This is not about broadcast-bashing," says Linda Yaccarino, Turner's EVP of sales. "We want to create a Turner budget."

Thus, Turner is championing opportunities for promotions and product placement. On TBS, they offer movie franchises, like Movie & a Makeover
and Man Made Movies, where advertisers can hype products during interstitial programming. These product placements have a 100% renewal rate, the company says. On TNT, advertisers can sponsor segments of shows, like Law & Order
and movie franchises.

Another Turner tactic to entice advertisers is exclusive sponsorships in marquee titles, such as Sex and the City,
upcoming original TNT series The Grid, and sports. These deals, Levy says, help keep inventory tight and sellout high.

Turner argues its channels shouldn't be compared with its fellow cable networks in the upfront. "Combine our programming with other marketing opportunities," says Yaccarino, and the others "can't compete."

Last year, Levy adds, Turner signed its upfront business at the same time as broadcast networks. (True, broadcasters commanded a much higher premium on CPMs. Turner's were up only slightly.) Although Turner can point to higher ratings and A-list product, he says, it gets pitted against other cable nets for one reason: CPM negotiations.

Buyer, beware: Turner's ready to fight that battle, too.

Cable Inches Up

Cable Inches Up

The tide is turning, albeit slowly. In the 2003 upfront, TBS and TNT brought in an estimated $760 million to $800 million in revenue. Ad-supported cable networks commanded a 50.3 share of prime time viewing, leaving the seven broadcast networks a 44.6 share. But the battle between Turner nets and the broadcasters isn't a clear cable victory.

In the key 18-49 demo, TNT's prime time audience grew 13% last year compared with 2002, according to Nielsen. Broadcast results were mixed. NBC was down 15%, and CBS slipped 1%. Fox was up 8%, and ABC ticked up 3%.

However, TNT is growing from a smaller base—up to about 1 million 18- to 49 year-olds—than the broadcast network audiences.

On TBS, 18-49 ratings dipped 7%, but delivery to its target 18- to 34-year-olds rose 3%. In that lucrative demo, NBC was off 16%, and CBS down 4%. Fox climbed 10%, and ABC was up 2%.

 

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