NBC JUST SAYS NO TO ANTI-DRUG ADS FOR PRIME TIME TOP-RATED TV NETWORK CUTS DEAL FOR SATURDAY TEEN PROGRAMMING

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NBC, first in prime-time ratings, is last in selling prime ad time to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Buoyed by ratings success and a strong performance in the upfront sales marketplace, NBC alone among the leading broadcast networks has refused to make the bonus free-time concessions the drug office is demanding in return for buying prime-time ads, according to the media agency handling broadcast buys.

NET SAYS IT WASN'T ASKED

NBC, which agreed to provide the concessions on its Saturday morning Teen NBC programming block, insisted it was not approached about a prime-time buy.

The drug office last week signed a new deal with CBS that includes prime-time ads, spots during National Football League broadcasts and a themed episode of "Touched by an Angel."

Like earlier deals with ABC parent Walt Disney Co., Viacom and News Corp., CBS agreed to provide bonus ads and programming that will give the drug office more of a presence. The drug office is spending about $150 million a year, but hopes to stretch that to $300 million worth of media exposure.

NBC last week said the drug office approached it only about a teen-programming media buy and denied it was reluctant to air free bonus public service announcements on its top-rated shows in exchange for paid PSA time.

INTERESTED IN TEENS

"We had a conversation indicating that they were interested in making a deal on [the teen programs]," said a network spokesman. "We were told the demographics they were interested in were young teens."

But Rich Hamilton, CEO of Zenith Media Services, which with Bates USA, both New York, is buying media for the campaign, said Zenith unsuccessfully tried to purchase NBC prime time.

`INTERESTED IN PRIME TIME'

"[The drug office] and Zenith were very interested in a prime-time commitment with NBC. However, due to issues related in part to the pro bono match, we went in other directions for prime time," Mr. Hamilton said. "We are delighted with our NBC [teen] partnership, which is a great value for" the drug office.

The drug office began negotiating deals after the close of the upfront marketplace, during which the networks sell the bulk of their prime-time inventory.

Mr. Hamilton and other media buyers said the drug office can reach its audience without NBC's top-rated prime-time programs, but not easily.

"Not having NBC is not the end of the world, but you will miss a lot of people," said Jon Mandel, senior VP-media, Grey Advertising.

"You can buy around anybody, but you will be missing some younger people, some men."

DEALS CAME AFTER UPFRONT

Mr. Mandel said the fact that deals were negotiated after the close of the upfront market may have contributed to NBC's reluctance to offer for free ad time it can sell for top dollar to other advertisers.

Alan Levitt, director of the media campaign for the government, said most networks have been willing to offer free time. "We are particularly pleased at the way the pro bono match is going and at the generosity of network television and radio companies. We have found that even some networks that have traditionally not been strong supporters of public service have found ways to participate in this campaign."

FAMILES, TEENS ARE FOCUS

The tentative media plan for the anti-drug push calls for most national TV advertising to be aimed at parents or families, with the majority of local ads aimed at teens.

A $50 million multimedia deal signed earlier with Disney, the largest deal so far, included ads for the next five quarters on ABC, ESPN and ABC radio programming, including "NFL Monday Night Football" and "Wonderful World of Disney" (AA, July 13).

Disney offered bonus ads and some unique incentives to get the deal. Disney CEO Michael Eisner, who hosts "Wonderful World of Disney," will appear in public service anti-drug ads as part of the package.

Other deals of around $15 million each have been signed with Fox Broadcasting and Viacom, parent of MTV, Nickelodeon and VH-1.

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