Putting their own twist on a song featured in the movie Eyes
Wide Shut, MSO executives said that when it comes to 1999 ad sales, cable did a good,
And most MSO executives are looking forward to keeping that
good thing going with a brisk sales pace through the rest of this year and next.
MediaOne Group Inc. vice president of ad sales Ed Dunbar
said that although June numbers haven't been fully counted, the MSO's second
quarter grew just over 25 percent and its first half rose "a little bit above 30
Dunbar anticipated that "the momentum will
continue" through the final quarter, and that there will be "robust,
double-digit" growth next year, as well -- assuming that the economy stays healthy
and that the much-touted strength of political ad spending, the Olympic Games and
millennium fever holds up.
When it comes to political, he added, "The early
expectation is for hefty spending in general -- national, state and local."
Time Warner Cable vice president of ad sales Larry Zipin
said through a spokesman that its same-store sales for both the second quarter and first
half jumped by about 30 percent.
Cable One vice president of ad sales Ron Pancratz, enthused
about the MSO's sales strength through the initial half, said, "It's
amazing to me, since 1998 was a strong year, and it included a lot of political."
Pancratz added, "Making budget is what we're all
about," and sales in the initial half rose 27 percent, or about 18 percent ahead of
budget. June results haven't been fully tabulated yet, he noted.
The second quarter alone was "a little less robust
than the first, but still very good and over budget." May results once again were
"exceptional," Pancratz said, adding that May typically finishes among the
MSO's top three months for the year, along with November and October.
Pancratz singled out computer- and Internet-related
businesses among the categories fueling Cable One's first-half growth. As for
automotive, he added, it's "still spotty -- good in some places, fraught with
cancellations and uncertainty in others."
More conservative in his outlook for the rest of 1999,
Pancratz felt that "the second half may be tougher [than the first] in terms of
beating budget." That's because he's anticipating "a growing
apprehension of Y2K and stock-market jitters" in the latter part of 1999, he added.
Cable One has budgeted for "some sort of August
slump," he said, although business should be strong "on either side -- July and
At AT&T Broadband & Internet Services, officials
would only say that the MSO's first-half sales gained 20 percent.
As for Cablevision Systems Corp., senior vice president of
local ad sales Robert Sullivan put that MSO's first-half growth at 18 percent,
finishing $2 million, or 10 percent, over budget.
"Automotive dominated, with general retail right
behind," he said, adding that communications was another category posting strong
gains, and that banking enjoyed a resurgence.
Neither he nor Rainbow Advertising Sales Corp. president
David Kline would comment on a published report that Cablevision may sell some of its
Boston and Cleveland systems to emphasize expansion of its New York DMA cluster. But Kline
observed that there's likely to be "a lot of horse-trading" ahead.
Comcast Cable Communications Inc. senior vice president of
ad sales Filemon Lopez said last week that 1999 is shaping up as a strong sales year.
"We're tracking that way, [with] sales clearly ahead of last year,"
although Comcast Corp.'s policy bars the release of growth percentages.
"We're well ahead of plan in just about every
category," he said. "If I could have another first half [like this one],
it'd be great."
One important factor in lifting sales, he added, is that
Comcast is "selling a lot more inventory" due to the fact that digital
ad-insertion technology enables some systems to insert on up to 24 networks -- and, in a
couple of cases, up to 36.
The trend in MSO ad sales is changing from 10 percent
national/regional and 90 percent local in the recent past, Lopez observed, to today's
35 percent national/regional and 65 percent local.
Looking 36 months out, Lopez guessed that the ratio could
change to a "50-50 model."