Cable's Live Wire

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While the trade and tech press grapples with double-digit declines in ad revenue, a key TV outlet for business-to-business advertising-cable news networks-is faring better by comparison.

As a group, Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC and CNBC held even in ad revenue in 2001. Together they reaped $1.012 billion in ad revenue, a 1% uptick from 2000, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. A key ad constituency on the cable news networks continues to be b-to-b marketers, though CMR doesn't distinguish between b-to-b and consumer ad revenue.

The business-to-business segment in cable TV casts a wide net. It can range from a jet maker trying to reach top executives of airlines, to an overnight delivery company using a general-market commercial to reach corporate executives. In all cases, the target is the kind of upscale viewer that TV networks and advertisers covet.

"A lot of b-to-b [marketers], when they're on TV, they're on cable news," says Catherine Warburton-Scott, senior VP-associate director, national broadcast, at Aegis Group's Carat USA, New York. Cable news channels are "a lot more upscale than the Peter Jennings news, and that's why [b-to-b advertisers] gravitate" to them.

TECH ADS ON CABLE NEWS

Even in the wake of the tech wreck, several b-to-b tech marketers, such as Dell Computer Corp. and Electronic Data Systems Corp., are still running schedules on the cable news channels. B-to-b player Boeing Co. boosted its overall cable spending by 80.9% in 2001, hitting $8.7 million, according to CMR. Dell was up 20.5% to $29.7 million, and EDS, though admittedly not in the ranks of Dell, spent $770,900 on cable, more than 20 times what is spent in 2000.

LaWanda Burrell, VP-global advertising for EDS, says: "The reason we're running on both CNN and CNBC it that we get an excellent concentration of senior management, and the [media] cost of the spots is so low [compared with broadcast] that we can have a continuous presence."

Boeing wanted its commercials, created by Interpublic Group of Cos.' Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide, Chicago, to enhance the company's brand. TV "gives us an opportunity to talk about the brand in an emotional and passionate way that print doesn't allow you to do," says Anne Toulouse, VP-brand management and advertising at Boeing.

Boeing runs spots on AOL Time Warner's CNN, News Corp.'s Fox News Channel, Microsoft Corp. and General Electric Co.'s MSNBC, and GE's CNBC. "We cherry-pick the programming we want," says Ms. Toulouse, adding that Boeing prefers business shows.

"Overall, the differences [between cable news channels] are subtle, but they're important," says Tyler Schaeffer, senior VP-director of media brand planning at FCB New York. "For individual advertisers the differences can be quite dramatic, because the content is very different and the viewership and age skews are very different."

Larry Goodman, CNN president of sales and marketing, trumpets cross-marketing programs with other AOL Time Warner properties. For instance, Mellon Financial Corp. and its Dreyfus Corp. unit plan to run spots on CNN and CNN Headline News, place print ads in Fortune and Money, run ads on CNN Web sites, and sponsor the Fortune Global Forum.

CNBC's focus on financial programming would seem to make it well-positioned for b-to-b ads. John Kelly, exec VP-advertising sales, estimates that 75% of CNBC's advertisers are b-to-b marketers.

Cable TV also makes the medium of radio more attractive to b-to-b marketers, since most news channels license some content to radio companies. Viacom-backed Westwood One, for instance, will launch "The Radio Factor With Bill O'Reilly," hosted by the Fox News personality, on May 8.

"Westwood One has Fox News, CNN, CBS News and NBC News, virtually every major brand of news in the country with the exception of ABC," says Peter Kosann, Westwood One's exec VP-sales. "When it comes to business-to-business, we also have CBS.MarketWatch.com."

The powerhouses of national radio for b-to-b advertisers are the morning news programs that are syndicated by Westwood One and Walt Disney Co.'s ABC Radio, says Natalie Swed Stone, managing partner-director of national radio services at Omnicom Group's OMD USA, New York.

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