'COMING-OUT' EPISODE RAISES AD RATES FOR 'ELLEN'

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ABC's controversial "Ellen" episode set to air April 30 is expected to draw a larger than usual audience and that's raising the show's price.

Though ABC declined to comment on ad prices for the hourlong "coming out" program, agency and media executives confirmed an increase. Some advertisers have backed out of the episode, however.

Last fall, an average 30-second spot on "Ellen" was priced at $170,000, according to network and agency estimates (AA, Sept. 16, '96). An average :30 on the special episode is said to cost $335,000.

ABC's ability to charge a premium for the program is quite a change from 1989, when a controversial episode of "thirtysomething" dealing with gay characters cost the network more than $1 million in lost sponsors.

A spot from gay advocacy group Human Rights Campaign was rejected by ABC because it does not air advocacy ads, but the group has bought time on 33 local stations running the "Ellen" episode. The commercial depicts a woman being fired for being a lesbian and explains that such action is still legal in 41 states.

The commercial, created by Semans Co., Alexandria, Va., was accepted by ABC affiliates in Los Angeles, Boston and Dallas but not in New York, Chicago or Houston.

At least two other advertisers-lesbian travel service Olivia Cruises & Resorts and Home Access Health Corp.-are trying to take advantage of the expected increased gay and lesbian viewership by buying time around the show. Olivia's first TV spot, showing two women embracing, was also rejected by ABC, due to "child restrictions," but tentatively has been accepted by San Francisco's KGO, an ABC-owned station.

Home Access, maker of a home HIV test kit, bought in six major markets. The

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