William Farina, Cox Communications Inc.'s newly named
vice president of ad sales, said last week that his top priority will be to deliver
ad-sales gains not only from cable systems, but also from regional news channels and local
On the cable-system side, Cox will reach 5 million
subscribers late this year, once its recent acquisitions of Media General Inc.'s
cable operations and TCA Cable TV Inc. are finalized.
In an interview last week, Farina said Cox posted a 25
percent uptick in first-quarter local ad sales, "and I don't see that slowing
down" through the first half. Although sales slowed in April, May has been
"outstanding," he added.
Media is the hot category in terms of first-half spending,
Farina said, adding that fast food, financial/banks and automotive are other categories
scoring "very dramatic increases."
Speaking of automotive, Farina said, General Motors
Corp.'s April 1 takeover of its dealers' ad funds has had a mixed impact on the
MSO to date. "It's been devastating in certain markets, where spending has
diminished or nearly evaporated," he said. "In others, there's been a huge
As for whether other automakers are mulling similar
takeovers of their dealers' ad spending, he said, "I haven't heard of
anyone else doing that."
Cox is also looking to increase local cable sales with
"TargetVision" -- its zoned-sales effort in such markets as New Orleans;
Pensacola, Fla.; Oklahoma City; and Orange County, Calif. -- he added.
In addition, Cox has seen growth from a handful of systems
that serve as cable affiliates to two fledgling broadcast-television networks: Cox is
selling local inventory as the Pax TV affiliate in San Diego and Las Vegas, and as the
United Paramount Network affiliate in Omaha, Neb.
Farina indicated that he intended to continue pressing
cable networks for more local time, as did predecessor Pat Esser and Esser's boss,
Earlier this year, senior vice president of operations
Margaret Bellville replaced Dalvi, and Esser succeeded Bellville as operations vice
president in April.
"[Increasing local avails] is definitely a crucial
issue for us," Farina observed. He praised ESPN's April announcement that it
would increase local time on SportsCenter, effective March 2000, adding,
"We'd love to see that continue."
Looking beyond its systems, Farina said Cox also expects to
boost ad sales from its regional news channels and from the Web. Cox's local city
sites are currently up and running in seven markets, with three more still to come later