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B'cast revs up dramatically after stagnant 2003

This article was updated at 6:24 p.m.

NEW YORK — After only slight gains last year, broadcast TV saw a healthy 10.2% jump in ad revenues during the first quarter, according to figures released Wednesday by the Television Advertising Bureau.

Cable also saw impressive increases, with a 16% boost in ad revenues, according to a report released separately by Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

“The first quarter’s positive results point to a continuing strengthening of the U.S. advertising economy in almost all key sectors,” said Nielsen Monitor-Plus managing director Jeff King.

“We expect that two key events, the summer Olympics and the presidential campaign, will fuel growth through the remainder of the year,” King said.

On the broadcast TV side, syndication ad revs continued to enjoy the widest increases, posting a 16.7% rise compared with a year earlier, according to TVB.

Network TV saw a 10.4% increase, while local broadcast TV was up 8.7%.

In 2003, broadcast TV ad revenues increased only 0.5%, with revs actually down 2.2% in the final quarter compared with a year earlier.

Movie advertising on broadcast TV continued to fall off in the first quarter, down 15.8% from the year-earlier quarter ($86.6 million vs. $102.8 million). Disney spent $37.5 million on local TV ad buys, down 13% from the same frame last year. Time Warner spent $37 million, down 2.7%.

According to the TVB report, the top 10 advertisers in the quarter remained the same — including automotive, car dealers, restaurants and furniture stores. Financial institutions were among those stepping up their media buys.

Seven of the top 10 advertising categories were up, including automotive (14.3%), car dealers (13.3%), furniture (13.3%), financial (31.4%), leisure time activities and events (7.5%), insurance and real estate (23.7%).

Automotive shelled out $935.8 million for TV time, vastly outspending any other category. Restaurants came in second at $315.7 million.

The government and organizations category, which includes political ad spending, was up a staggering 93.4% in the first quarter, with $145.8 million spent on TV ad buys.

All told, syndicated TV took in $947.8 million in ad revenues in the quarter. Network TV took in $6.1 billion, while local TV took in $4 billion.

The Nielsen Monitor-Plus report covered all major media in addition to television, including magazines, newspapers, network radio, Spanish-language TV. According to Nielsen, ad spending rose more than 7% in the first quarter due to gains across all media.

Also Wednesday, a new commercial service was launched that will track ad prices and revenues for broadcast TV, syndication and cable in real time. NetCosts, a venture of SQAD, is designed to allow ad agencies and advertisers to evaluate their TV buys against the going rates.

“NetCosts has the potential to level the buyer/seller playing field by replacing speculation and hearsay with hard data,” SQAD prexy-CEO Neil Klar said.

“The Web-based system includes at least 40% of all national TV ad buys in the U.S. It also allows subscribers to see as many as four quarters ahead and gain valuable insight into the upfront market,” Klar added.

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