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Cable upfront sales near $5 billion

'Mammoth' to get sequel in 2001

NEW YORK — Advertiser-supported cable networks are zooming toward a record $5 billion upfront marketplace in 2000-01 — a stunning 32% increase over last year’s upfront.

That’s the word from Bill McGowan, executive VP of advertising sales for Discovery Networks U.S., who delivered his prediction of industry trends at the company’s annual upfront luncheon Tuesday in New York.

In programming news, Mike Quattrone, exec VP and G.M. for the Discovery Channel, said the network has commissioned a sequel to its humongously rated docu special “Raising the Mammoth.” “The Mammoth Revealed” will run on Discovery in the first quarter of 2001.

Tables to turn

Returning to the swollen ad revenues for cable, McGowan told reporters at the briefing that “by the year 2005 — for the first time — the dollar volume of cable TV’s upfront will move ahead of the volume for the broadcast TV networks.”

McGowan’s projections, which often influence ad agencies and other industry players, indicate that cable’s upfront ad-sales total will soar to $13.5 billion in 2005, compared with $12.9 billion for broadcast. For the full 2005-06 season, he predicted, cable will end up with $19.5 billion in ad revenues while broadcast finishes with $17.2 billion.

Specs generate coin

The revenue generators for Discovery are specials like “Inside the Space Station,” a two-hour report on “how astronauts train, live, work and survive” in the station’s environment, detailing “the science and technology behind the structure and the drama and difficulties of its creation and operation.” This special, shot in high-definition, will go out simultaneously in 23 languages to 146 countries sometime in the fourth quarter this year.

McGowan said one new sales strategy he’s setting in motion is “content sponsorships.”

For a negotiated price, he explained, “an advertiser like Ford could sponsor this summer’s ‘Shark Week’ on Discovery. Ford would also get a logo and promotional copy on the Discovery Web site devoted to ‘Shark Week.’ It’s convergence for the advertiser’s promos across TV and online, and all of the networks, both broadcast and cable, will soon be doing it as a matter of course.”

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