New York -- National spot-cable ad revenues finished the
first quarter of 1998 with a record 34 percent surge, building on the record-breaking pace
that was set last year.
Spot cable's blistering 37 percent jump in the third
quarter of 1997 and its 26 percent uptick for full-year 1997 were also new highs, marking
the largest percentage increases for each of those periods since the Cabletelevision
Advertising Bureau began tracking spot-sales results in 1993.
Some cable operators credited a sluggish first quarter of
1997 for the huge uptick this year.
The CAB, which doesn't report dollar figures on a quarterly
basis, said national spot topped $242 million in calendar-year 1997, with the 26 percent
gain amounting to more than $49 million.
Cable executives said several other factors contributed to
the spot upsurge, including category growth virtually across the board and ongoing
audience gains. What was hot? The CAB listed appliances/electronics, travel/recreation,
home improvement, political and professional services.
In addition, cable's "constant effort to improve our
service to our clients" was a factor, said Ed Dunbar, chairman of the CAB's committee
on national spot, in a prepared statement. That included advertiser-friendly
interconnects, according to Dunbar, who is also MediaOne's vice president of ad sales.
MediaOne's growth "tracked very closely" with the industry figure, he added.
Jack Olson, vice president of Media Partners, the ad-sales
arm of Adelphia Communications Corp., said the interconnects in Chicago, Detroit and Miami
have helped to lift the spot business. Digital ad insertion was another booster, and Olson
said Adelphia will be "fully digital by the end of July."
Calling the overall spot growth "a fairly normal and
continuing trend," Olson also felt that cable reps have done "a much better
job" at reducing advertiser churn, although he said it remains an issue.
Deborah Cuffaro, Cable Networks Inc.'s senior vice
president, attributed her rep firm's strong quarter to several hefty categories and to
particularly strong sales in the central region. The categories included automotive
(including a "breakthrough" buy from Mazda Motor Corp.), travel/tourism (notably
for Las Vegas resorts and Ireland), home improvement, telecommunications and packaged
Despite its solid gains lately, some sources pointed out
that spot cable's tally in 1997 was small potatoes compared with the $10 billion that went
into broadcast television's spot coffers.
Bolstering national spot cable's growth even more is a
major motivating force behind plans to mount a national ad-sales interconnect.
Earlier this month, sources close to the matter said five
of the top six MSOs have agreed to proceed with establishing this nationwide interconnect,
although it remained unclear what the next step would be and even how extensive the
venture might ultimately become.
Jerry Machovina, senior vice president of ad sales at
Tele-Communications Inc.'s TCI Media Services, said through a spokeswoman last week that
it's "too early" to discuss the project, other than to say that negotiations
with interested MSOs are continuing.
Dunbar added, "I don't know anything about that
Other MSOs below the top six were either unavailable or
unwilling to comment on whether they might join this eventual interconnect. Olson said
only that it's "premature" to discuss now.