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NBC and News Corp. notwithstanding, Viacom's Karmazin says his ad sales will rise about 11% this quarter
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While NBC and News Corp. have imposed hiring freezes as a result of what they see as a softening advertising economy, Viacom President Mel Karmazin says the ad business is "better today than ever before." At least that's what he told attendees at last week's Credit Suisse First Boston Media Conference in New York. (Company Chairman Sumner Redstone delivered the same message to those attending the UBS Media Conference, also held last week in New York.)

Karmazin said the company's TV, radio and cable sectors would show sales gains in the 11% range (pro forma) in the fourth quarter despite the collapse of the dotcom spending that gave a huge boost to the fourth quarter in 1999. "The overall climate for advertising is really good," said Karmazin.

Karmazin said Wall Street was "sort of screwed up" for punishing media stocks on as yet unproven speculation that the economy is headed a toward a major slowdown. "I wish there was a recession so we could show how well we can perform in one," he said.

Karmazin said CBS is 95% sold out for the first quarter of 2001, when the network has the Super Bowl, Survivor II
and the NCAA College Basketball Tournament.

Indeed, Super Bowl Sunday may set a record for the most revenue generated by a broadcaster in one day, Redstone told his audience. Game-related fare on Super Bowl Sunday (Jan. 28) will rake in more than $200 million in advertising for the CBS network (more than $150 million) and stations ($50 million), sources say. That doesn't include Survivor: The Australian Outback, set to debut after the game. That show has nine sponsors spending between $12 million and $13 million over the series 13-week run, plus additional advertisers buying smaller amounts of time.

CBS will produce 19 hours of Super Bowl XXXV-related programming over the weekend that the Big Game is played, most of it targeted not to hard-core sports fans but to those millions who simply tune in to see what all the excitement is about.

But game-focused sports nuts don't have to tune in until about 5:30 p.m. on game day, said CBS Sports President Sean McManus. After that, it will be all business through the conclusion of the game, which is scheduled to start at approximately 6:25 p.m. in Tampa, Fla., with Greg Gumbel and Phil Simms in the announcers' booth. "No one has ever devoted the resources to produce so much diverse programming," around the Super Bowl as CBS is, said McManus.