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Ad revs up 33%; dot-coms feed growth

NEW YORK — The pitches keep on coming.

Advertising revenue for national cable TV networks skyrocketed during the first quarter of 2000, increasing more than $500 million to a record $2.3 billion, a 33% gain over the same period last year, according to estimates by the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau.

The gain represents a 71% increase over first-quarter revenues during 1998, and 98% over the same period during 1997. According to CAB figures, national cable net ad revenue for the full calendar year is expected to reach a record $9.7 billion.“These growing investments provide further confirmation that advertisers throughout the nation are finding increasing value in cable,” said CAB president and CEO Joe Ostrow.

Much of the gain can be attributed to the influx of dot-com dollars. “There are a lot of new advertisers — mostly dot-coms — who are buying primarily cable,” said Chris Geraci, senior VP and group director of national TV buying at BBDO.In some cases, startup companies are turning to cable for a bigger bang for their buck. One unit of ad time during ABC’s hit “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” for instance, costs approximately $300,000, according to industry sources. The same money could buy 40 or 50 cable units. “Often, clients will buy in small cable networks rather than a broadcast net because it will feel like a more substantial buy,” said Geraci.

But ad revenue for cable is not coming at the expense of the broadcast nets, sources said. “Cable gains are coming from a very strong advertising market that is fueling gains across the board,” said David Poltrack, exec VP of research and planning at CBS. Indeed, Poltrack forecasts a record quarter for the broadcast networks as well.

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