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Bull market for public TV's 'NBR'

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Quick: What's the most-watched daily business show in America? CNN's "Moneyline"? CNBC's "Business Center"? CNBC's "Market Wrap"? No, no and no. The most-watched daily business show is "Nightly Business Report," which airs on Public Broadcasting System affiliates in the U.S. "Nightly Business Report" averages 1.3 million viewers a day, more than "Moneyline," "Business Center" and "Market Wrap" combined, according to Nielsen Media Research figures for the February sweeps.

"Nightly Business Report," which is PBS' business news answer to the "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," is a half-hour program that recaps the financial markets and other business news of the day. Miami, Fla.-based Paul Kangas and New York City-based Susie Gharib co-anchor the show.

21 years, 270+ stations

A former stockbroker, Kangas founded the show in 1979 as a local program on WPBT, the PBS station in Miami. The show went national two years later with 126 stations. Now, more than 270 stations carry the program.

"Nightly Business Report" carries enough cachet in the business world that in the past two years it has attracted a veritable who's who of the b-to-b world to be interviewed on the show, including General Electric Co. Chairman John Welch, Sun Microsystems Inc. CEO Scott McNealy and Boeing Co. CEO Phil Condit. Both President Clinton and Vice President Gore have been interviewed on it. And Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan is a former commentator.

Professionals, executives and other managers make up about 22% of the show's audience, which makes it attractive to b-to-b marketers. Good luck, however, getting a marketing message on the show. "It's been [about] 10 years since we've had an underwriting opening," said Linda O'Bryon, senior VP-executive editor.

National writing slots on PBS are said to begin at $1.2 million and may go as high as $3 million a year.

The national underwriters of "Nightly Business Report" are Compaq Computer Corp., A.G. Edwards Inc. and the Franklin Templeton Group, a division of Franklin Resources Inc. Digital Equipment Corp., which was acquired by Compaq, has sponsored the program since 1982. "It's targeting, prestige, continuity against a core audience, quality association, a timely news venue, and a unique property," said Tyler Schaeffer, senior VP-director of service brand planning for Compaq's agency, FCB Worldwide. "These attirbutes are hard to find."

'High regard'

"It is imperative that anything bearing the Franklin Templeton name be held in high regard," said Ed McBey, senior VP at the company, which has sponsored the show since 1991. " 'Nightly Business Report' is one of the most respected, long-running programs, with some of the most educated and devoted viewers in television history. We are proud to offer our continued support."

"I think that demonstrates that it works when you have people who are that loyal to something," said Caroline Riby, VP-communications director at Saatchi & Saatchi Rowland. "If they're paying that kind of money for a sponsorship, it's quite an investment for business-to-business advertisers that they've got to be getting something out of it."

One drawback of the "Nightly Business Report" audience for a b-to-b marketer is that nearly 30% is 65 years old or older. "I think we're finding that they are still an influence in the marketplace," Riby said. "What we're finding is that a lot of people aren't retiring as young as they used to."

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