MICHAEL JACKSON AT A DISCOUNT

When Diane Sawyer has her probing sit-down with Michael Jackson on the June 14 edition of “PrimeTime Live,” the newsmag will no doubt bring in an audience of Super Bowl proportions. When Jackson did his last TV interview, with Oprah Winfrey two years ago, ABC estimated 90 million viewers tuned in – and that was before Jackson was accused of child molestation and the charges were settled out of court. Moreover, this time around he will be with his wife, Lisa Marie Presley.

The chat is an essential cog in a well-orchestrated PR campaign to rehabilitate Jackson’s image – to coincide with the release of his album “HISstory” – and it’s a major coup for Sawyer. But it’s also turned into a major bargain for “PrimeTime Live” advertisers. Because commercial time in the newsmag was sold out before Jackson agreed to the interview, those advertisers who bought in did so at bargain-basement prices, paying between $150,000 and $250,000. “Given the kind of rating a Jackson interview will deliver, a spot in the show would be a bargain at $600,000,” says a media buyer. “It’s like when you buy commercials in an NFL game before the season begins and it turns out to be the match-up of the century.”

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