KEY PBS STATIONS CUT DEAL WITH AD REP

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The four flagship stations of the Public Broadcasting Service are close to announcing a deal under which National Public Television will represent the stations to the ad community.

The stations are WGBH, Boston; KCET, Los Angeles; WNET, New York; and WETA, Washington, D.C.

The setup for the first time would provide advertisers one-stop shopping to place messages nationally in the relatively uncluttered, upscale PBS environment.

FOUR STATIONS ABOUT TO SIGN

Last fall, NPTV began selling corporate support announcements for public TV stations to insert between programs, said Audrey Koota, WNET's exec VP-marketing, who confirmed the four stations were about to sign the NPTV deal.

Because of legal constraints, spots on PBS are not called commercials. And while image advertising is allowed on PBS, certain ads, like those touting the benefits of one product over another, are not allowed.

The spots NPTV sells are aired either before or after shows, in 15- or 30-second formats. Some stations introduce the spots with a voice-over such as, "Funding in part by . . ."

When formed last year, New York-based NPTV had six station partners: WTTW, Chicago; KERA, Dallas; WTVS, Detroit; WHYY, Philadelphia; KQED, San Francisco; and KCTS, Seattle.

Another 10 stations have signed on with NPTV as their exclusive rep. NPTV places announcements on other PBS stations as well.

"Basically, it's what's known in the business as an unwired network," said Ms. Koota.

One agency media manager said she liked the one-stop shopping aspect of NPTV.

"There have been various PBS stations that have approached us over the years, but NPTV is going to make it very attractive."

NPTV was founded by Bob Williams, who started and later sold cable rep firm National Cable Advertising. Mr. Williams has brought in Don Ershow, a well-known former cable ad executive, as part of his management team.

"Hypothetically," Mr. Williams said, NPTV could reach about $75 million in sales in its first year. NPTV also plans on repping to Madison Avenue public radio stations and public TV Web sites, Mr. Williams said.

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