Cable News Nets Ad-Free

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The all-news cable outlets continued with wall-to-wall Iraq-war-coverage mode
throughout Thursday, sans commercials.

Cable News Network officially pulled the plug on all advertising at about 9
a.m. Thursday. Prior to then, a few spots had run overnight on CNN from
Wednesday after 9:30 p.m. to Thursday morning.

"It's a hard one to call, and I guess we're erring on the conservative side,"
CNN executive vice president of sales Greg D'Alba said. "We want to do the right
thing, Obviously, we're going to lose money in the short term."

All three all-news channels are expected to forfeit millions of dollars in ad
revenue as they air 24-hour coverage on the war, although estimates varied on
how big a hit they will take.

CNN has said that it will stay commercial-free the first 48 hours of the war,
but that may be subject to revision. Since the war didn't kick off with the
extensive heavy fighting some TV executives had expected, they were being
flexible about how they would proceed.

"We'll use our discretion," D'Alba said. "If nothing happens for a day, and
it's 10 o'clock at night and we haven't seen any activity whatsoever, we'll
regroup. And three days from now, if there's heavy activity, we're certainly not
going to break in or around heavy coverage [with ads]."

After Thursday's bombing of Baghdad at 1 p.m., CNBC stopped running ads for
several hours, senior VP of business news David Friend said.

"The events of the world were so compelling and were driving important moves
in the stock market, so we felt that we had to stay with that coverage in
service to our audience," he added.

MSNBC has been commercial-free since Wednesday night, when the first U.S.
missiles hit Baghdad, a network spokeswoman said.

Fox News Channel couldn't be reached for comment about its plans in terms of
war coverage or ad strategy the next few days.

In a report this week, The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. predicted that not only
CNN, but entertainment services such as TBS Superstation and Turner Network
Television, could lose ad revenue due to the war as skittish sponsors pull
back.

The report said that for the first three days of the war, CNN could lose $3
million to $6 million in ad dollars, and $5 million to $10 million the first
week.

But Goldman Sachs added that AOL Time Warner Inc.'s entertainment networks
also risk exposure of $3 million to $6 million the first three days of the
war.

While huge national advertiser Procter & Gamble Co. said it will not
advertise on the four broadcast networks for 48 hours after the war started, it
will continue to run spots on cable networks that offer "family entertainment
programming," a company spokeswoman said.

On Thursday, BBC America said it would interrupt its regularly scheduled
programming to air live, commercial-free rolling news coverage from BBC World,
the British Broadcasting Corp.'s 24-hour international news
network.

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