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(July 23, 2001) -- Nokia will be the sole sponsor of the commercial-free premiere of ABC's new action drama Alias, it was announced at the Television Critics Association meeting. The premiere is Sept. 30 at 10 p.m.

As the "presenting" sponsor, Nokia will get an announcement at the beginning of the show. Further details are yet to be worked out. Additionally, Nokia will get product placement in the show; the phone company will use the promotion to launch its new Nokia 3300 Series wireless phone.

ABC executives said the promotional stunt is aimed to draw in viewers to sample the new show -- a problem for virtually all TV networks -- which is about a female graduate student who is secretly working for the CIA. ABC did a similar promotion last year for Gideon's Crossing, a hospital drama, for which Johnson & Johnson was the lone sponsor.

Concerning other advertising news, Alex Wallau, president of the ABC Televison Network, said the severe drop in total overall revenue from $2.3 billion to $1.65 billion in the June upfront vs. the year before was about as predicted.

"We knew the market would go down where it went down," he said. He added that he was satisfied ABC pulled in as much as it could have in the current TV advertising market.

Mr. Wallau predicted fourth quarter 2001 and the first quarter of next year will continue to be tough for TV advertising sales, but that starting in the second quarter, the market will begin to recover. -- Wayne Friedman

Copyright July 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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