Cabletelevision Ad Bureau: Show put on hold in restructuring

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The Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau has put its annual national show on hold next year and will reallocate conference funding to bankroll a campaign to meet with advertisers and their agencies one-on-one and to fund more research.

The new tack is part of a restructuring of the organization aimed at making it more of an aggressive new business lobby group for its membership of ad-supported cable networks, rather than simply an industry association and information resource that puts out Nielsen Research audience numbers.

"We are redirecting the way resources are traditionally used at the CAB," said Sean Cunningham, the group's president-CEO. "In this new era of television advertising redistribution between broadcast and cable, our membership said this is a critically important time to have more research tell us what is going on out there."

Mr. Cunningham, 42, joined the organization in June from Interpublic Group of Cos. media shop Universal McCann, where he was VP-managing director. He replaced longtime CAB chief Joe Ostrow, who retired. He will launch his first one-on-one campaign tour in February, the same month the national show is usually held and before the national prime-time upfront.

The organization's members also approved an undisclosed amount of funding to pursue projects in the area of consumer research and return on investment.

This new approach comes on the heels of growing audience numbers for cable TV. According to figures released earlier this year by the CAB, in 2002 ad-supported cable bested the combined prime-time viewership of the seven broadcast networks for the first time. According to the CAB study, ad-supported cable's average prime-time U.S. household delivery increased by 2.5 million homes to almost 30 million last year while the seven broadcast networks saw their delivery decline 587,000 homes to 29 million.

The CAB seems to be remaking itself along the lines of the Television Bureau of Advertising, an organization representing local broadcasters. The TVB, under President Chris Rohrs, has been active in pitching advertisers on behalf of its membership.

"Our primary mission is to make calls on our customers," Mr. Rohrs said. "The CAB serves two different constituencies that are becoming more different by the day...the networks and the MSOs, the operators. We compete with them just on the operators side."

The CAB Advertising Conference's national show is expected to return in 2005. The CAB will still hold its annual local show in Chicago in June.

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