Normally Slow Month Bolstered by Non-Political Advertisers

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NEW YORK ( -- The two major cable news networks said they are seeing a boost in ad spending by marketers following strong TV ratings for the Democratic National Convention last month and this week's Republican National Convention taking place in the hometown of many media buyers.

Executives at Fox News Channel, part of

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News Corp, and CNN, a Time Warner unit, said third-quarter ad sales have picked up. Greg D'Alba, chief operating officer, sales and marketing, at CNN said the sales activity surrounding cable news "is the buzz" among media buyers.

Non-political advertisers
Mr. D'Alba said automotive marketers and discount brokerage firm Charles Schwab Corp. are among 12 to 14 non-political advertisers that have increased third-quarter spending. He said the advertising is contributing double-digit sales gains at CNN during the so-called scatter market for the quarter over the same period last year.

The scatter market is when networks sell remaining ad space at a premium to marketers who need to run ads as the need arises.

Aside from identifying Charles Schwab as a buyer, Mr. D'Alba declined to identify other advertisers who had bought in, but said they were mostly non-political advertisers. He attributed the gain specifically to post-DNC glow of cable news ratings and the presence of the GOP convention in New York.

Ratings gains
Cable news networks' DNC coverage recorded higher ratings than four years ago. During the 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. time frame July 28 (the next to last day of coverage), CNN posted a 1.5 rating, Nielsen Media Research said, up from 1.1 four years ago and Fox climbed from 0.3 in 2000 to a 1.2 rating; MSNBC rose to to 0.8. Meanwhile, ratings for the major broadcast networks, which limited their coverage to an hour in prime time.

MSNBC, the third major cable news network behind Fox and CNN, did not return calls by press time.

At Fox News, Roger Domal, vice president and national sales director, said August sales have been up dramatically in what is otherwise a slow month. He said marketers are recognizing that cable news is a legitimate advertising medium; that Fox News has strong ratings; and that worries about the ability of marketers to buy airtime later may have contributed to the increased sales.

He said Fox would likely see third-quarter ad sales exceed last year's by almost 25%, with additional ad buys including retailers, credit card companies and automakers.

Change in viewer dynamics
"We don't necessarily see the Democratic National Convention or the Republican National Convention as a catalyst so much as there [has been] an overall shift in the dynamics of people watching cable news," he said. "This is a big year. Fox News Channel is going to do well and [marketers] are getting on board."

He also pointed out that as the campaigns move into the fall and more airtime is bought by political groups, advertisers who wait till the fourth quarter to get their messages out may be squeezed and forced to pay higher prices to buy in.

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