Since advertisers tend to follow eyeballs, most media sellers aren't suprised that clients are tagging along with viewers who shift their gaze from cable programs to their attendant Web sites.
In its monthly analyses of Nielsen Net/Ratings data, the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau has found that traffic to ad-supported cable networks' Web sites consistently accounts for more than 60 percent of all time spent in media-related Internet areas.
During October alone, the CAB said, cable sites amassed 2.42 billion gross at-home and at-work usage minutes, compared with 1.58 billion minutes for the collective Web sites of broadcast television networks, radio stations and print publications.
On a percentage basis, the CAB added, the cable sites accounted for nearly 61 percent of all time spent with media-related sites that month.
Besides keeping up with the Taliban's shrinking hold on Afghanistan, viewers are evidently shifting from cable shows to Web features for everything from Discovery Channel's When Dinosaurs Roamed America
to Animal Planet's Crocodile Hunter
to Lifetime Television's Speaking of Women's Health.
And this movement is opening up ad-sales opportunities. Lifetime executive vice president of ad sales Lynn Picard said that combined sales of TV and online inventory are "going very well for us."
"Integrated sales have picked up quite a bit," she said. "The Web is an interactive medium, so if you can create an integrated relationship with the consumer, that's more appealing to advertisers."
Verizon Communications and General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet nameplate are among the Lifetime clients most enthused about buying across the two platforms. Picard said both Verizon and Chevrolet have effectively used combined online/on-air sweepstakes.
The online component "offers a real way and an immediate way to measure success" in terms of reaching consumers, she added.
"But the message needs to be integrated, as opposed to separate sales pitches," Picard said.
Chevy promoted its new Trailblazer last July with a two-week sweepstakes push tied into Lifetime's Intimate Portraits
specials. The shows were packaged under a "Strong Women" theme that included related vignettes.
There also was a microsite within Lifetime's Web site. All told, the sweepstakes — which urged consumers to vote for strong women in their lives — drew 257,000 entries, a record for Lifetime, Picard said.
"That also built a database [for the client], which is key in online sponsorships," she added.
Lifetime also scored with a cross-media sale behind Speaking of Women's Health, a new Saturday morning series co-sponsored by Procter & Gamble Co. and Wal-Mart Stores. The show is supported by a related Web element on Lifetime's site, Picard said, adding that P&G and Wal-Mart are also giving away tie-in health brochures at retail.
Mark Lazarus — Turner Broadcasting Sales Inc.'s newly named president of entertainment group sales and marketing — remains high on the concept of selling cable networks in conjunction with companion Web sites.
"We offer a price-value relationship to attract marketers" that includes the packaging of cable and Web properties, he said. "We're putting together assets that give us a tremendous reach and marketers recognize that."
Taking an even broader look at the marketplace, Lazarus said he's also still enthused about cross-platform selling. Prior to becoming Turner Sports president in fall 1999, Lazarus ran Turner's global client solutions group, facilitating ad-sales integration across the various Turner networks and other AOL Time Warner Inc. media assets.
Although they can be time-consuming — "an incubation period" can span one year or more — Lazarus said such cross-platform deals are "going to become more valuable over time" for media companies like AOL Time Warner and for marketers.
One of the key advantages in buys that package cable networks and companion Web sites is that advertisers can reach users at different times during the day, and thus "take advantage of the [viewership] spikes in each medium," said Cable News Network executive vice president of ad sales Greg D'Alba.
But some observers said that the Web largely serves as a value-added component to TV buys or other cross-media deals, a notion D'Alba disputed.
"We get fair value from the Web, given the types of numbers we're achieving," he said.
But MSNBC.com director of sales and business development Charlie Tillinghast said that adding value is important.
"Value-added is definitely the trend in putting together these [cable-Web] packages," said Tillinghast.
While the marketplace is admittedly soft for every medium, "advertisers definitely want something special," he said. "We need to sell more than just an ad. A cross-media package creates a more attractive buy than does cable or the Web alone."
Tillinghast said MSNBC and NBC (the latter mainly for Today) try to focus on content themes and special advertising sections in their sales pitches. A "holiday gift guide" sponsored by a client on cable — and a more-detailed online version — is "in the works right now," he said.
Last summer, MSNBC and MSNBC.com did something similar with barbecue recipes, he added.
"Retailers like this [thematic concept], as do e-commerce-type merchants."
Scripps Networks senior vice president of Internet sales Jeff Meyer was the most outspoken on advertisers' pursuit of added value.
"The pressure is there," he said. "Everyone wants [the Web] just thrown in [as part of the deal]. We're just walking away."
For her part, Lifetime's Picard said that "Internet-only [ad] sales are hurting. Online sales are down substantially across the board."
Scripps' Meyer agreed.
"It's definitely a tough economy," he added. "It's not the go-go days of 1999 and early 2000. But we're up in the fourth quarter versus fourth quarter a year ago," due in part to the popularity of cable-Web package deals.
In discussing categories, Meyer said that "packaged-goods [clients] are more in tune with converged deals. On the flip side, clients that have been using the Internet longer, like auto companies, tend to have separate cable and online campaigns."
Meyer said that packaging has opened more budgets: "We get business from advertisers who wouldn't be on our sites if they weren't part of a package, because they don't necessarily have a big Web presence."
Discovery Networks U.S. vice president and general sales manager of interactive advertising Dina Roman said the slow ad market "really hasn't affected Discovery," in part because her company has long sold its online assets in tandem with cable fare.
"It's a two-pronged sales approach, selling what's on-air and online in upfront, calendar and scatter [deals] and selling standalone deals, which means going after interactive budgets," he said.
CNN's D'Alba said that cable-Web site packages are becoming increasingly important during the annual upfront ad-sales auctions. He cited at least 22 integrated deals that were either done during the most recent marketplace or that are being finalized now, during the "calendar [year] upfront."
D'Alba declined to name clients, but said that the categories include "everything from financial services to automotive to computer hardware," many of which are "buying our 'lifestyle' segments" on both platforms.
At her operation, Discovery's Roman said that "45 percent of our revenues are converged deals, 55 percent is interactive revenues."
For ITV buys, Discovery works with clients from the planning stages through execution, she said. First, Discovery identifies the content with the most audience appeal on cable and the Web, such as "Shark Week," Walking with Dinosaurs
or the upcoming (Dec. 9) Walking with Prehistoric Beasts, she said, or by bundling daytime avails on Discovery and The Learning Channel to target women.
The company then prices the inventory and goes to the market. The cable and Discovery.com sales teams "present as one an opportunity that [buyers] can't disassemble."
The strongest categories in terms of buying across cable and the Web include automotive, telecommunications and consumer electronics, according to Roman.
One upcoming trend in the ITV sector, according to Roman, is an increasing focus on "sync-to-broadcast" deals, or buys tied to content shown simultaneously on cable and the Web site.
For instance, when Discovery ran When Dinosaurs Roamed America, the Web site offered additional information on T-Rex while the prehistoric behemoth was featured on the cable special. AT&T Corp. sponsored that particular event in both venues, she noted.
In 2002 TLC's popular Junkyard Wars
will be pitching prospects along those lines, Roman said.