Cable Ad Sales Rise in First Three Quarters But Bad News Looms

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Ad expenditures on cable TV were up 3.7% for the first three quarters this year compared to sales in the same period of 2007, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

The research firm attributed the growth to cable's "limited exposure" to the 100-day strike by the Writer's Guild of America that extended into the first quarter this year, plus successful summer programming.

Network TV spending was up for the nine-month period, too, buoyed by spending around the Summer Olympics. The latter turned a six-month loss into a nine-month gain, with year-to-date expenditures up 3%, the firm said.

Despite the television gains, total spending across all media, including magazines, newspapers, radio and the Internet, is down 1.7 % from 2007. The whole sector is being dragged down by year-over-year losses by newspapers (down 10%) and radio (down 8.8%).

The biggest economic black cloud is still on the horizon: preliminary data from the fourth quarter indicate slackening of the overall advertising market.

"Consumer spending levels, which drive the corporate profits that in turn fund marketing budgets, remain a serious concern and will have a strong influence on the depth and duration of the current difficulties facing advertising," said Jon Swallen, senior vice president of research for TNS.

Procter & Gamble is still the nation's largest advertiser, but the $2.29 billion it spent was down 5.9% from the same January-September period in 2007. Verizon Communications is escalating its spending, up 12.8%, in support of its wireless division. However, those gains were offset by an ad spending decrease of 13.7% from rival AT&T, the biggest decline among the Top 10 advertisers.

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