Still Spending on Cable

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Agency concerns compete with cable optimism while equally conflicted advertisers appear to be spending through both war and hard times.

"Overall spot TV is not as strong as we expected," says Bonita Le Flore, EVP/director of local broadcast, Zenith. "The year started with a bang, but the war and a weak economy are making advertisers reluctant to do anything."

Jean Pool, EVP/director of North American Operations, Universal McCann, concurs. "Spot is very negotiable," she says, adding, "I don't think we'll see the 2% growth recently predicted."

What categories are hot? "I still expect to feel a downturn from automotive, especially as domestic sales are down. I think domestic automotive is spending through [bad times] in order to retain share."

Nonetheless, "spot cable is doing great," says Kevin Barry, VP, local sales and marketing, Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau. "It's been a good year for national and local cable, but spot cable is enjoying even greater increases and growing faster than any other television medium."

Indeed, the CAB recently announced that network-cable advertising revenues rose 5% from 2001 to $10.64 billion in 2002. National Cable Communications, the largest cable rep firm, reported a 26% jump in spot sales in the first quarter, beating 2002's 24% increase over the comparable period in 2001.

Although auto sales are good, cable spot insiders say that substantial spending increases in the media, telecom, restaurant/fast food and banking/investment categories are fueling the growth.