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With the cable TV upfront marketplace rushing to conclusion last week, a number of buyers were concerned-in the wake of ongoing debate on whether black-oriented media get a fair shake in ad buying-that they still hadn't closed deals with Black Entertainment Television.

The reason, said one astonished agency executive: "They're looking for [cost-per-thousand] increases of 80% to 120%."


Indeed, BET Chairman Robert Johnson is said to be displeased with the low rates his cable network has been charging and is looking to hike them, especially in light of a report ranking BET alongside cable competitors.

"There is no question Mr. Johnson is concerned, as are all of our executives, that over the years there has been a misunderstanding about the African-American consumer market," said Raymond Goulbourne, VP-eastern regional sales for BET, who pointed out that a recent report showed a :30 on one of BET's top-rated programs cost about $700, while one on a top-rated program on MTV cost about $8,900 (AA, April 13).


"There's no reason, with our delivery in certain key demographics, for such a disparity," Mr. Goulbourne said.

On average, he said, BET is looking for 25% CPM growth and only in "rare instances" is the network asking for 100% increases.

One buyer said the controversy over the memo at Amcast, a division of Chancellor Communications' Katz Media, and the involvement of the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Federal Communications Commission was an added pressure during the BET negotiations.

The buyer noted while out-of-pocket costs involved in media schedules on BET are not unreasonable, the problem is most advertisers evaluate their buyers on CPM increases.


Outside of the discussions with BET, most other cable ad business for the upfront was close to wrapping up last week.

"We are virtually done," said Joe Uva, president-entertainment sales and marketing, Turner Broadcasting Sales. Turner writes about 25% of the cable upfront market.

"We are very pleased with the outcome of the market," he continued. "Our goal was to manage our way to double-digit CPM increases, and we were successful in achieving that."

A number of ad buyers and rival cable networks questioned Mr. Uva's CPM claim.

"While I think Turner is to be complimented this year for holding out for decent CPM increases, I think it's more accurate to say that they wrote business anywhere from the 2% to 3% range with Media Edge for the Tricon [Global Restaurants] business to deals up to 10% to 11% increases," said one rival network sales executive.

One executive with a major agency said its Turner deal was in the range of an 8% CPM increase.

"Sellers had visions of double digits, [but] the reality of the upfront was CPM increases of 6% to 9%," said David Cassaro, senior VP-advertising sales, E! Entertainment Television.


Turner's Mr. Uva said his management is estimating the total cable upfront to be "$2.8 billion to $2.9 billion, up from $2.3 billion last year."

Another cable network executive said that could be correct.

"We're flat in cable-what we've done is move money around," said a buyer who represents a major carmaker. "But if you talk to the right two cable network guys, they'll tell you our spending is way up, because it's up on their networks."

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