Nets make good on washed-out tennis

Ads flow despite audience drought

NEW YORK — Rain washed out a number of scheduled U.S. Open tennis matches over the Labor Day weekend, but CBS and the USA Network said they’ve successfully maneuvered to satisfy advertisers who have bought lots of time in the event.

“We’ve worked hard to make sure that our advertisers are getting the rating points they need,” said Scott McGraw, a CBS sales executive who focuses on sports.

CBS lost 13½ hours of live tennis matches out of the 14 hours of coverage on Sunday and Monday, but it added free commercial time during the replacement programming — mostly replays of great matches of the past — to help advertisers make good on the fact that fewer people were watching the Golden Oldies than would have watched live tennis.

The metered markets Monday showed that CBS’ rating for the seven hours (11 a.m.-6 p.m.) of rain-delayed matches averaged only a 2.5, which was 32% lower than the 3.7 rating average for the same day in 2001.

But on Sunday, even though the pouring rain swept away all but 30 minutes of live coverage from 11 a.m.-6 p.m., CBS was down only 18% from the same seven-hour period a year ago in the metered markets.

The extra spots CBS inserted between taped games from the past and between both live and taped interviews with the players allowed advertisers to make up the household-rating guarantee CBS had given them.

No ratings were available for the primetime cable coverage of USA Sunday through Tuesday, but Jeff Lucas, USA Network’s head of sales, said that except for Sunday night, the network got most of its weekend matches played, including what he calls “the night of nights” Monday featuring seven marquee matches.

“The rain gods were more fortunate to us than to CBS,” said Lucas, adding that some of the make-goods to advertisers will come out of USA’s decision to add an hour of tennis at 6 p.m. on Sunday and Monday, knocking off the third hour of the Al Pacino movie “Carlito’s Way” (Sunday) and a rerun of “The Dead Zone” series (Monday). USA’s all-day coverage (until 11 p.m.) will continue this week through Thursday.

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