After 9 p.m.: the cocktail hours

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NBC's guidelines for accepting hard liquor ads may seem strict, but upon closer inspection, advertisers adhering to the guidelines could run commercials in virtually all post-9 p.m. shows on the Big 3 networks-but not on Fox, UPN or WB.

The major guide line is that liquor marketers advertise in shows only after 9 p.m., although some programs airing before that time can be evaluated on a case-by-case basis as long as they meet the second standard. The second standard is that liquor ads can run only in shows where an 85% minimum of the audience is age 21 and older.

Using this criteria, liquor advertisers could run in 100% of NBC shows running later than 9 p.m. Only one primetime program on the General Electric Co. network dips below the 85% level-"NBC Saturday Night Movie"-which only reaches 82%, according to Nielsen Media Research. (It starts at 8 p.m.)

The situation is the same at Viacom's CBS, where 100% of its post-9 p.m. shows meet or exceed the 85% standard, Nielsen figures show. Only one program, its highest rated, "Survivor: Africa," would miss the cut. A total of 83% of its audience is age 21 or older. The program airs at 8 p.m Thursdays.

As for Walt Disney Co.'s ABC, 83% of its post-9 p.m shows qualify. "The Drew Carey Show" and "Whose Line Is it Anyway?" would fail to make the cut. Six other ABC shows would also not meet the 85% standard, according to Nielsen. Additionally, the six air before 9 p.m. None of the three other broadcast networks' programs-News Corp.'s Fox, Viacom's UPN and AOL Time Warner's WB-would meet the full qualifications set by NBC. Fox does have one show, "Boston Public," which reaches the 86% level, but it airs at 8 p.m. Likewise, UPN's new hit "Enterprise" hits the 87% mark, but it airs at 8 p.m.

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