Flat First Half For Local TV

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Second-quarter local TV advertising spending looks flat or down depending on the market. Given the Television Bureau of Advertising (TVB) 1st Quarter Report, released today, broadcast spot appears headed for the kind of flat-to-down year most industry watchers have come to expect of non-Olympic, off-election years.

"While April buying was pretty good, spots placed for May were flat, and June is down," says one major station rep source. "People are still holding back."

Petry Media Corp CEO Tim McAuliff agrees. "We see second quarter as flat to -2% right now, making June absolutely pivotal. We need some dynamic spending [to drive things up]."

"There's still a lot of late buying going on," adds Pete Stassi, SVP, local broadcast, PHD, "but automotive advertisers can't miss the spring window because July and August are dead for car sales."

Bonita Le Flore, Zenith Media EVP and director of local broadcast, sees variations. "I don't see New York as down between retail, auto and movies for second quarter. Generally, I'm not seeing a flat second quarter in the top 20 markets. Below that, however, there's weakness."

According to the TVB report, first-quarter local TV spending (local and national spot combined) hit $3.7 billion in 2003, 0.3% over the $3.69 billion spent in 2002.

Not unexpectedly, political was down 50%. But soft drinks, candy and snacks also fell 29%, while computers and software dropped 26%.

Some major advertisers' spending rose sharply. Target was up 77%, and local General Motors car dealers posted a 67% increase.

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