News

USA: No Cash Back for Open Ads

9/05/2003 10:26 AM Eastern

With rain playing havoc with the U.S. Open Tennis Championships this past
week, USA Network was scrambling to make sure advertisers were made whole --
within the confines of the tournament schedule.

As rain and mist soaked the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.,
Monday-Thursday, USA was only able to present 11 hours of live play among the 38
hours it telecast, according to a network spokesman.

From Aug. 25-Sept. 4 (minus Aug. 29, a day for which Nielsen Media Research
is reprocessing cable numbers), USA averaged a 1.0 household rating for its
primetime coverage.

Over 110 hours in 2002, the network added, it averaged a 1.5 rating.

Still, Universal Television president of ad sales Jeff Lucas said USA scored
a "20% increase in volume" for the 2003 event, and it was his goal to "get
everything taken care of in the tournament. We don’t give cash back, and I don’t
think we’ll have to offer make-goods in entertainment programming or next year’s
tournament."

Lucas said USA had held back some inventory at the outset of the tournament
as a safeguard against audience-delivery shortfalls and based upon inclement
weather that also plagued the 2002 Open. "I sat out here every day last year
when it rained," he added. "We learned our lesson and were well-prepared."

Lucas added that USA’s Open performance last year had an "index of 170,"
meaning it overdelivered for clients.

Lucas also pointed to USA’s commitment to the event and its ability to add
coverage hours as a make-goods makeup. "If they dry off the court at 6 p.m.,
we’re on at 6:01 p.m. We don’t have the daypart and affiliate worries that CBS
[the tournament’s broadcast rights-holder] has."

USA’s cause may have also been helped by the addition of the women’s
semifinal matches Friday night. Those matches were moved into the evening
session to accommodate the tournament backlog that saw all four of the men’s
quarterfinals matches play out on the afternoon of Sept. 5 on
CBS.

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