It couldn't get worse - Broadcasting & Cable

It couldn't get worse

But, for first few months, spot market this year may still be stuck in reverse
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Can the national spot television business possibly be worse this year than in 2001? There are those who believe so, although, with Olympics and political advertising helping to shore up the market, national spot will probably be up some single-digit percentage.

But that won't be nearly enough to make up for last year's declines. When the final numbers are in, they will show that national spot TV advertising had its worst year—in terms of percentage decline—in 2001.

According to the TVB's Group Time Sales Survey, national spot was down 23.5% through November. (Local spot sales were down 9%, bringing combined national and local spot sales for TV stations down about 15% for the first 11 months of '01).

Outside of the Olympics, the first half of the year will be tough going for national spot.

"From what our clients are telling us it looks pretty bleak" for spot spending, said Pete Stassi, senior vice president at Pentamark/BBDO, which handles Chrysler and Jeep, among other accounts. Stassi projects that national spot spending at his agency may be down 25% for the year. "We're hoping it bounces back toward the middle of the year."

In addition to the usual competition, new pressures have emerged for national spot, including cheaper network pricing. And local stations say their focus going forward will be on growing local sales. National spot remains a critical piece of station business but not a dynamic growth area, station executives say.

But Jim Beloyianis, president of the Katz Television Group, the New York-based TV rep firm, says that, while many stations talk about growing local business, what's actually happening in some cases is that local account reps are making calls on accounts outside their DMAs and crediting resulting sales as local. The local reps, of course, are within their rights to do so, although national reps typically are contractually precluded from selling in the DMAs of their clients.

Beloyianis argues that part of the reason the national spot numbers look as bad as they do this year is the impact of local sales forces' selling outside their DMAs. The mandate by station-group heads to grow local business is smart, he says. But it has been "somewhat bastardized" by the local sales people who go outside their markets to pick the "low-hanging fruit" of the national spot business. Sometimes the top station managers may be unaware of the practice. In effect, money is getting shuffled from spot to local. and true local sales growth doesn't happen.

<p>Prognosticator</p><p>Prediction</p>

Universal McCann

+5%

TVB

+3% to +6%

Sanford Bernstein

-2%

Jack Myers Report

-9%

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