CNN Looks to Cash in on Inauguration

Network Signs More than 20 Sponsors for Two-Day Coverage

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The election cycle was kind to CNN. The home of Election Night's second-most-watched network and most-trafficked website is hoping to capitalize in an even bigger way on Inauguration Day.

The total client list is the largest that CNN has ever had for any one- or two-day event.
The total client list is the largest that CNN has ever had for any one- or two-day event.
Cisco, Sprint, Exxon Mobil and Vestas Wind Systems have all signed on as integrated sponsors for the inauguration coverage on CNN and CNN.com, with more than 20 additional advertisers purchasing airtime on TV throughout the day and 18 advertisers buying ads online.

Greg D'Alba, CNN's exec VP-chief operating officer of ad sales, said the total client list is the largest the network has ever had for any one- or two-day event. "The election trail was more than any of us bargained for in many ways. Our brand became more, our coverage became more, the viewers became more and our users became more," he said. "This is about the attraction and the empowerment of a brand. It's no longer about a single medium; it's about a network."

Similar strategies
CNN's event-based sponsorship strategy is mirrored by MTV and BET, which have recruited sponsors such as Verizon, Target and Procter & Gamble for their inauguration coverage.

But it's also markedly different from that of its main competitor, Fox News, which recently told Ad Age sibling TV Week its plans to focus its sales and marketing efforts on three new shows launching later this month rather than one day of inauguration coverage. MSNBC, which like CNN experienced its highest-rated year among adults 25 to 54, has also sold out its inaugural sponsorship packages.

Overall 2008 was a banner year for the cable news networks, which gained their largest share of news coverage against their broadcast competitors, particularly among the key advertiser demographics of 18 to 49 and 25 to 54. Fox finished the year with an average of 497,000 adults 25 to 54 in prime time. CNN was No. 2, with an average 455,000 viewers in the demo, followed by MSNBC, with 369,000.

New goal
If the initial fear among the cable news networks was sustaining their record ratings growth after Nov. 4, the new goal for CNN is to build a lasting audience around the "First 100 Days," the brand for CNN's daily coverage from Inauguration Day through the end of April. But Mr. D'Alba expects the viewer interest to continue even longer than that. "We know it wasn't a six-month event, and we know it wasn't a one-year event. We used to talk in terms of the inauguration as the first 100 days. Now we certainly talk in terms of the first 365 days," he said.

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