B’cast, cable spat

Marketers huffy over interpretations of ad revs

The marketing arms of the broadcast and cable networks traded barbs on Thursday over the advertising revenues they’re trying hard to collect in a soft marketplace.

The CAB (Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau) stressed the fact that the advertising dollars chalked up by 37 nationally distributed cable networks climbed by 7% in the first quarter of 2001 compared to the same period a year ago.

By contrast, said the CAB, the seven broadcast networks (the Big Four, plus WB, UPN and Pax TV) fell off by 2.2% in the first quarter. The CAB analyzed data supplied by an organization called Competitive Media Reporting.

But a spokesman for the TVB (Television Bureau of Advertising), which represents the broadcasters, said the CAB figures are misleading because cable’s growth has slowed dramatically. The TVB cites the huge 32% increase cable harvested in the first quarter of 2000 ($2.3 billion), compared to the same period in 1999 ($1.74 billion), which dwarfs the 7% rise this year.

B’cast nets up 17%

During the same time frame, the seven broadcast networks engineered a 17% increase, from $4.55 billion in the first quarter of 1999 to $5.34 billion in the first three months of 2000. So even though the broadcasters have declined by 2.2% in this first quarter, the disparity is not as great as cable’s over the two-year period, the TVB said.

The TVB also criticized the CAB for ignoring Univision and Telemundo, the nationally distributed Spanish-language broadcast networks, whose advertising revenues have shot up faster than those of the seven others in the last two years.

In response, the CAB said it has never included Univision and Telemundo in its comparisons, but doesn’t rule out adding them to the mix for future reports.

And although the CAB’s ad-revenue increase this year is not in the double digits, “it’s still an increase, and we’re still pulling Madison Avenue dollars away from the broadcast networks,” a CAB spokesman said.

Joe Ostrow, president and CEO of the CAB, said, “Most cable networks are targeted, and aimed at the lifestyles of specific, segmented viewers. That makes us a more effective buy for advertisers than the broadcast networks,” which, as general-entertainment operations, are hard to brand with a definable identity.