WRG PROPOSAL PUSHES CABLE CROSS-PROMOTION

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Wells Rich Greene BDDP wants its MTV. And its ESPN, TNT, USA and at least a dozen other cable networks as well.

In a bold plan dubbed "an accelerated growth strategy for cable," the New York-based agency has proposed to virtually all the national cable nets that they pool a certain amount of their commercial inventory to cross-promote one another.

So spots promoting Court TV would appear on Lifetime, Arts & Entertainment and Turner Network Television, and vice versa.

The brainchild of Senior VP-Deputy Media Director Barry Fischer, the plan-a copy of which was obtained by Advertising Age -recommends each cable network start with an investment of $100,000 to $300,000 per quarter.

WRG's compensation would be a percentage based on the gross contribution of the networks, calculated quarterly. The agency would get 10% of the first $2.5 million, and 5% thereafter.

If the quarterly pool were $5 million, for example, and 25 networks were participating, each cable network would ante up $15,000, giving WRG a fee of $375,000. WRG would make sure the spots run, and do the post-analysis and billing.

NON-THREATENING

Mr. Fischer said the agencies and independent media buying shops that usually plan and buy advertising for the cable networks shouldn't be threatened or angered by the WRG plan "because they don't buy a lot of spots on other cable networks to promote the networks they represent."

WRG is the cable buying agency of record for Procter & Gamble Co. and has an extensive infrastructure servicing that account-expertise that would be put to good use by the agency in stewarding the plan. But Mr. Fischer said P&G-the nation's largest cable advertiser-had nothing to do with his initiative.

Most local cable systems insert cross-promotional spots in unsold local time now, but that arrangement is haphazard and the networks don't know when, where and how much cross-promotion they are getting. In the WRG plan, Mr. Fischer has figured out a way to give incentives to small and large networks to participate.

A TNT would get more gross rating points than a Court TV because TNT has much greater household penetration. But a Court TV might want to participate in the plan so it can get promotion on a much bigger TNT.

NETWORK VETO POWER

Furthermore, participating networks can dictate what networks they want to be promoted on, and can exclude a network from being promoted on its time. For example, Nickelodeon probably would not want to air promos for the Cartoon Network.

"It's a very interesting idea," said John Popkowski, exec VP-advertising sales at MTV Networks, who was at a WRG presentation.

His primary concerns are the value placed on inventory, the incentive for the larger networks to participate and "whether it's more efficient for us just to cross-promote over our own networks [Nickelodeon, MTV: Music Television, VH1: Video Hits One, Nick at Nite and the upcoming TV Land] or join the consortium Barry's trying to form."

Mr. Fischer said he was still getting reaction from the cable networks late last week and it was too early to tell if the plan will be implemented. He said at least five networks need to agree to the plan to make it viable.

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