FORD WANTS SOLE AD ROLE ON 'MURPHY BROWN' FINALE: CBS MAY SEEK MORE THAN $3 MIL TO SPONSOR HOURLONG LAST EPISODE

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Ford Motor Co. is negotiating with CBS to be the sole sponsor of the final episode of "Murphy Brown."

"Murphy Brown" star Candice Bergen has been adamant that this will be the last season for the 10-year-old series, and the network is making plans for a finale during the May sweeps.

$1 MIL FOR OCT. 29 EPISODE

Ford anted up a little more than $1 million to be sole sponsor of the series' Oct. 29 episode, which dealt with the character's recovery from a breast cancer operation. The carmaker used that opportunity to push its association with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Working through the Ford Motor Media unit of J. Walter Thompson USA, Detroit, Ford is hoping to land what will likely be an hourlong final episode for "somewhere in the $2 million range," according to an executive familiar with the talks.

Last season, Ford bought sole sponsorship of the network TV premiere of the Academy Award-winning film "Schindler's List" on NBC for $5 million. It would be a surprise if the auto giant could land an hourlong "Murphy Brown" finale for less than $3.5 million or so, according to some media executives.

CBS and JWT declined to comment.

While season-to-date the show has only averaged an 8.4 rating/13 share, if promoted and scheduled properly the finale could get ratings into the high teens with a 22 to 25 share, said an agency research executive.

Given those audience pro-jections, and figuring that CBS would load the show with about 15 30-second spots, the network could easily charge approximately $250,000 a spot.

If Ford isn't willing to pay for the entire show, "they will most likely take auto exclusivity," said one media observer.

Another possibility is that JWT will buy the entire show for Ford and some of its other clients.

OPPORTUNITY FOR SPRINT?

For example, JWT also is the agency for Sprint Corp., which uses Ms. Bergen as ad spokeswoman. However, the network doesn't usually let the long-distance carrier's spots featuring Ms. Bergen run during the show.

"But if this is the last show ever of 'Murphy Brown,' " maybe they'd make an

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