'Nightly Business Report' Needs New Partner

A.G. Edwards, Under New Owner, Drops 20-Year Sponsorship

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- PBS's "Nightly Business Report" has lost one of its sponsors going into the new year. A.G. Edwards has dropped its 20-year sponsorship following its recent acquisition by Wachovia Securities. Investment firm Franklin Templeton Investments, San Mateo, Calif., however, has renewed its 17-year sponsorship of the program through 2011.
'Nightly Business Report' co-anchors Susie Gharib and Paul Kangas.
'Nightly Business Report' co-anchors Susie Gharib and Paul Kangas.

Stuart Zuckerman, VP-sales and marketing for "Nightly Business Report," said the program has traditionally sold four sponsorship slots, as PBS sets aside 60 seconds for sponsorship identification at the beginning and end of each program. Recently, the ad format has become more flexible, allowing marketers to run 30-second spots before or after the show or divide their ad time into two 15-second spots at the program's bookends.

Filling the position left open by A.G. Edwards, however, will not be easy for Mr. Zuckerman in the increasingly converged financial-services market; finding another banker that doesn't have a branch that competes with Franklin Templeton is no small feat. Bank of America, for example, wouldn't be eligible because it owns private-wealth firm U.S. Trust. "All those companies are trying to be all things to many people," Mr. Zuckerman said.

Instead, the program has turned to categories such as technology and luxury to fill other slots. Mercedes, for example, signed up for a deal in 2006 to promote the launch of its S-Class vehicle. Computer manufacturer Digital Equipment Corp. also was a longtime sponsor, even after its acquisition by Compaq. It was only after Hewlett-Packard bought Compaq that the brand's relationship ended with "Nightly Business Report."

The ratings arena is also competitive for the show. For budget reasons, "Nightly Business Report" only commissions Nielsen to rate it in February and November, though its February 2007 ratings showed the program continued to consistently outrank programming from key competitors CNBC and Fox. "Nightly Business Report" averaged 730,000 viewers that month, with 217,000 in the key news demo of adults 25 to 54. CNBC's chief ratings grabber, "Closing Bell," attracted an average of 311,000 total viewers during that time period, with 95,000 adults 25 to 54. The recently launched Fox Business News could put a dent in PBS's ratings leadership, but lacks the household carriage of its competitors to do so just yet with 30 million homes at launch.

'Not commercial media'
Mr. Zuckerman hopes sponsors will continue to find value in partnering with "Nightly Business Report" and its multiple online properties, which include streaming video broadcasts and audio podcasts.

"The PBS sponsorship model has always been about multiplatforms," he said. "It's never been just a media buy because we're not driven by CPMs. It's not commercial media." Instead, he considers the sponsorship dollars to be a production-underwriting grant. "When a viewer sees at the beginning of the program, 'This program is made possible by...' that's the truth. Without these sponsors, it's difficult to produce these programs."
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