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April 16, 2001

By Mercedes Cardona

NEW YORK ( -- As if the industry needed more recessionary signals, media spending in January showed the first real decrease since

the recession of 1991, according to newly released totals from Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

Spending on the 10 major TV, radio and print media was down 10.3% for the month -- a second straight monthly decline for the first time in years -- to $6.42 billion from $7.32 billion in January 2000. December showed a drop of 0.2% in ad spending, the first monthly decline since July 1997. That 1997 dip was an anomaly reflecting unusually high Olympics-related advertising in July 1996. The last sustained decline in U.S. ad spending was in the recession year of 1991.

Cable, syndicated TV only bright spots
Cable and syndicated TV were the bright spots in media spending in a rough January ad spending environment. Spending on cable TV was up 18.9%, to $706.8 million, and syndicated TV was up 5.3%, to $284.7 million, while magazines were up only 2% to $906.9 million.

The hardest-hit segments were national spot and network radio, which dropped 33.9% and 29.9%, to $107.8 million and $54.9 million, respectively. Network television dropped 7.8% to $1.78 billion, spot TV was down 17.8% to $1.15 billion, newspapers were down 25.2% to $1.08 billion and national newspapers down 12.5% to $265.5 million.

The totals back industry fears of a slowdown, which has colored first-quarter reports of all media and advertising companies that have already reported their results.

A report last week from Merrill Lynch & Co. analyst Lauren Fine estimated that, based on newspaper comapnies' first-quarter pre-announcements, newspaper advertising revenue would be down 2.5% for the quarter and earnings would be down 25%. Looking ahead, the Merrill Lynch report projects newspaper earnings would be down 2% for the year.

Copyright April 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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