CHANGES SEEN IN TV AD SALES WITH FCC'S NEW DUOPOLY RULE: BROADCASTERS LIKELY TO DERIVE GREATEST VALUE IN LOCAL MARKETS

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Though the Federal Communications Commission's duopoly rule is so new many executives don't yet know all of its ins and outs, it's nearly certain that in a few areas of station operations-including advertising-the impact ought to be considerable.

Duopoly stations might begin to resemble radio stations in markets where a few owners now control several stations. In that medium, ad staffs have been consolidated so station salespeople sell ad time for a number of stations, not just one.

That model could come to TV now that the FCC has approved rules allowing broadcasters to own more than one TV station in a market (AA, Aug. 9). Also allowing combined radio and TV station ownership within a single market, the FCC restricted new combinations to large markets with numerous stations-at least eight stations post-merger.

The top four stations in any market cannot be merged.

AN ECONOMIC VALUE

Ave Butensky, president of the Television Bureau of Advertising, said there is certainly an economic value to combining staffs, sales or otherwise.

"From the ownership point of view, these things are helpful because they allow you to pool your resources and be more effective. Duopoly has probably enhanced how radio sells itself and improved its efficiency and revenue," Mr. Butensky said.

"If you want to look into the crystal ball and see if that has the same impact [on TV], that's a reasonable expectation, but only time will really tell. If you have two people doing the same job and you can combine them and you have maybe one or 11/2 [jobs], why wouldn't you want to do it?"

Bonita LeFlore, exec VP-director of local broadcast, Zenith Media Services, New York, added: "It's really going to be a tremendous benefit for the stations themselves and owners. There will be a lot of savings in the backroom. They don't always pass those savings along to their advertisers. It will go to their bottom line."

She said the loosening of duopoly rules might have a benefit to advertisers if a second station owned by the same company adds more local programming and presents more promotional opportunities.

A FLAWED STRATEGY

Ms. LeFlore doubted unit prices would increase and cautioned that if a new duopoly attempted to rerun programming on its new second station, the strategy might backfire by resulting in lower ratings for the first-run episodes.

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