CNN Headline hits a new pitch

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With the news upfront market about to break, CNN's Headline News has a self-styled cross-platform deal to offer advertisers: new in-program sponsorships in conjunction with traditional ads.

The sponsorships are part of CNN's revamping of the 24-hour news net, which relaunches on August 6th. Corporate logos will appear on the lower half of the screen during business, sports and weather updates during the net's 30-minute news cycle. CNN President of sales Larry Goodman says the combination of sponsorships and ad sales makes Headline News a more attractive media buy.

"In a tough ad market where expenses are being cut out it's nice to go to people and say we're investing, putting money into programming, talent and new graphics," he said, adding that revenue from the sponsorships will help recoup relaunch costs.

Bank of America was the first company to sign on for the new model, as part of the financial giant's overarching ad deal with AOL Time Warner. Bank of America's logo will appear during the Marketwatch business updates, which are immediately followed by a Bank of America commercial. As part of the deal, Bank of America demanded exclusivity within its industry, meaning no other financial company can purchase a Marketwatch sponsorship. Competitors can, however, sponsor sports or weather. Goodman said companies would only get exclusivity if their purchase sponsorships in the upfront.

Critics say the in-program sponsorships compromise Headline News' journalistic integrity, an assertion that Goodman debunks. "Viewers understand that television is ad-supported," he said. "They are solely sponsors and don't have anything to do with editorial content."
- Allison Romano

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