Cable Networks Get Glimpse of EBay TV-Ad Auction

Media Sellers Complained They Were Left Out of Process

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- After complaints that media sellers weren't being consulted on eBay's construction of a new electronic auction system for buying television advertising time, cable networks said they received invitations to review the system late Wednesday.
The auction system being designed by eBay is structured to supplement traditional TV-ad-buying regimens, including the upfront.
The auction system being designed by eBay is structured to supplement traditional TV-ad-buying regimens, including the upfront.

Easier for buyers
The system being designed by eBay, which is working with a group of marketers and media buyers, is structured to supplement traditional ad-buying regimens, including the upfront system. The auction plan is intended to make it easier for buyers to efficiently locate opportunities and execute buys in an expanding landscape of media choices.

Some networks are concerned about losing control of their ad inventory in an auction system and that commercials would become a tradable commodity, ultimately forcing lower prices.

A test version of the system was unveiled at last week's American Association of Advertising Agencies media conference in Las Vegas. That blindsided some cable-network executives, who said they'd been promised a look at the system weeks ago.

Cable execs met up
On Wednesday Chuck Thompson, senior VP-sales and marketing at the Cabletelevsion Advertising Bureau, said that sales executives from several top cable networks had met the previous day and were concerned that they hadn't seen the system.

But he bristled at comments from the Four A's meeting that painted cable networks as an obstacle to progress.

"We welcome any opportunity to be involved in anything that is electronic and makes us better trading partners," Mr. Thompson said. Still, "we can't do anything until we've seen it," he said, pointing out that the CAB has heard nothing since late January about the system.

After the CAB's comments, networks began receiving e-mails with the web address of the test system.

'Special delivery'
"We got a special delivery last night," said Mel Berning, exec VP-ad sales at A&E Television Networks. "The early, early discussion was done without the benefit of much seller input," he said.

He said his staff would take a look at it and see how it fits with their business.

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Jon Lafayette is a reporter for TV Week.
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