Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of commercial inventory at both the
network and local levels were pulled Tuesday through Friday as an unprecedented
number of cable networks carried live news coverage of the terrorist attacks on
the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Typically, the news channels and the 'Big Four' broadcast networks pre-empt
their regular fare for major breaking news. But this past week was the first
time the major media conglomerates -- AOL Time Warner Inc., The Walt Disney Co.,
News Corp. and Viacom Inc. -- bumped programming from their entertainment
channels in order to telecast coverage from their news organizations for the
better part of two days.
The entertainment networks were back to their regular schedules by Wednesday
The combined broadcast- and cable-network national pre-emptions probably
topped $200 million for Tuesday and Wednesday alone without factoring in local
disruptions, some cable-industry sources estimated.
'I don't think anybody can tell yet' how much time and money is actually
involved, said one executive who sells time on several networks. The potential
impact of redeployed avails on the already weak scatter market 'needs to be
'I'm really uncomfortable talking about this,' given the magnitude of the
tragedy, the source added.
Another cable executive agreed. 'I don't think anyone's thought about it in
those terms,' he said.
Sources at various networks noted that even after the commercial-free phase,
many advertisers may ask to pull their advertising temporarily for
'inappropriate content,' such as depressing images of the recovery effort.
Marketers may also want to hold back their spots for 'inappropriate
creative,' such as travel messages from airlines, commercials for theatrical
films with terrorism-related story lines -- such as Warner Bros.' upcoming
Collateral Damage -- or films with promotion that was to include scenes
of the World Trade Center, such as Sony Pictures' Men in Black 2 and
Columbia Pictures' Spider-Man.