Another upfront crossing

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Continuing the run of cross-platform ad deals emerging during the TV upfront, Bank of America Corp. is near to an agreement with AOL Time Warner covering a range of the company's properties, according to people close to the process.

The deal, which one executive familiar with the matter valued at $40 million to $50 million, is believed to include ad opportunities with Turner Broadcasting System networks, Time Inc. magazines, America Online Web sites and the WB broadcast network. Those are the principal advertising outlets at the conglomerate, which depends on advertising and e-commerce for 23% of its revenues. TBS includes CNN and financial channel CNNfn, while Time Inc. has magazines such as Fortune and Money that would be attractive to a major financial advertiser.

The deal was propelled by the TBS unit, people close to the process said.

A TBS spokesman said discussions are always ongoing with existing clients, but would not comment on whether a deal is in the works. An AOL Time Warner spokeswoman declined comment. A Bank of America spokeswoman said she would not comment on any potential deals.

The deal could be a multi-year arrangement, considering that $50 million would represent some 40% of Bank of America's $122 million in spending last year, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. But Bank of America's spending has been on the increase lately, despite the economic downturn, after it launched a new $100 million campaign last fall from True North Communications' Bozell, New York; the company spent some $48 million in the first quarter of this year, according to CMR.

Cross-media deals have been a major focus of AOL Time Warner's first six months as a merged company, spearheaded by Co-chief Operating Officer Robert Pittman. The company recently named Julie Kantrowitz, former exec VP-media sales at Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, to a post involving oversight of the sprawling, complex deals. It was unclear whether she has had any involvement in discussions with Bank of America.

Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America is the largest retail bank in the U.S. after the merger in 1998 of NationsBank Corp. and Bank of America. Bank of America has its roots in the old North Carolina National Bank, NCNB. Through acquisitions under the leadership of recently-retired Chairman-CEO Hugh McColl Jr., NCNB-the bank that in 1980s regional ads proclaimed it simply wanted "to be the best bank in the neighborhood"-grew into the international force it is now with hundreds of billions in assets.

Contributing: Mercedes M. Cardona

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