Twenty-one of the top basic cable networks harvested $2,847 billion in advertising revenues during 1994, a strapping 16.9% increase over 1993’s total of $2,436 billion.

The Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau, the trade association of the industry, boasts that cable’s percentage growth dwarfed that of ABC, CBS and NBC, which collectively went up only 6.4% year to year. However, in absolute numbers, cable networks are weak stepchildren of the Big Three, whose ad revenues climbed from $8,689 billion in 1993 to $9,242 billion last year.

Howard Nass, senior VP of Foote, Cone & Belding, cites three reasons for cable’s big jump: a bullish advertising marketplace; more original programming on cable networks’ schedules; and a shifting by advertisers of some of their Big Three dollars to cable because of “unjustifiable” price increases by the broadcast webs.

The CAB derives the revenue figures it reports from the Broadcast Cable Financial Management Assn., which compiles its numbers from data supplied by 21 networks: A& E, BET, CNN, Cartoon Network, Comedy Central, Court TV, Discovery, E!, ESPN, Family Channel and Headline News.

Also, Lifetime, MTM, Nick at Nite, Nickelodeon, TBS, Travel Channel, TNT, USA, VH-1 and the Weather Channel.

Only three of the top 20 mass-circulation cable networks do not make their ad revenues available to the Broadcast Cable Financial Management Assn.: The Nashville Network, CNBC and QVC. On the broadcast side, the Fox Network declines to cooperate.

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