The Buzz

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Another sign that broadcast prime-time prices are soaring: NBC is offering cash back to advertisers that are owed make-goods from the `01-'02 season, people familiar with the matter said. As a rule, networks return cash only as a last resort. But NBC believes it can bring in more dough by essentially buying out advertisers and reselling the space at much higher rates. An NBC spokeswoman said there have been no requests for cash back-if true, a sign the airtime is indeed valuable.

ESPN continues to develop programming inspired by sports talk-radio. The new "Focus Group" features fans sitting around a table, ranting and kvetching. (One host is no slick on-camera vet, but ESPN's ratings guru Artie Bulgrin.) And in February, ESPN2 plans to launch a daily show, "Drive Time," where viewers can e-mail or call in . ESPN may simulcast the show on its radio network. Also, another talk-radio staple - sportswriters - are all over ESPN with "PTI," "Sports Reporters II" and the upcoming "Around the Horn."

Korn/Ferry International is handling the search to replace Joe Ostrow, president-CEO of the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau, who will step down in March. Korn/Ferry's Bill Simon says: "We're looking for people from all different backgrounds-could be from the agency side, could be from a corporate [media] buying side or from a trade association." A CAB rep had no comment.

contributing: lisa sanders

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