The likelihood of a national interconnect to bolster
spot-cable ad sales seemed to increase last week, when five of the top six MSOs were said
to have agreed to green-light the concept.
Leo J. Hindery Jr., Tele-Communications Inc.'s
president and COO, said during a conference call on its first-quarter results that five
major MSOs (which he didn't name) have now approved the national ad sales
interconnect, according to a financial analyst who participated in the call.
Besides TCI, long a prime mover behind the nation-wide
interconnect notion, the other MSOs believed to be on-board are Time Warner Cable, Comcast
Corp., Cablevision Systems Corp. and Cox Communications Inc., reaching a combined 35
million-plus subscribers. MediaOne, with more than 5 million subscribers, may be the
missing MSO, according to an analyst.
Executives at those major MSOs were unavailable for comment
at press time and have all along been reluctant to discuss details of the proposed
interconnect that have circulated in the industry since January.
The primary benefit from the MSOs' viewpoint would be
to bolster national spot cable ad revenues. For ad agencies and their clients, the big
plus would be in extending nationally the one-stop shopping concept popularized by the
various sales interconnects dotting the U.S. The interconnects' moves in recent years
to consolidate numerous major and lesser markets, thereby making them much easier for
agencies to buy, has fueled spot cable's growth. So has digital ad insertion and the
greater flexibility that technology offers.
Still, as some cable sources complain, cable's spot
sales lag well behind broadcast television, which last year amassed some $10 billion in
Numerous specifics remained to be hammered out in
negotiations, ranging from the technical logistics of interconnecting the MSOs to the
percentage of dedicated inventory to whether other top 10 MSOs would be contacted about
becoming involved. There's no indication of a target start date.
Late last March, some cable industry sources had thought
the national interconnect plan was well along since they'd heard that Adlink
president and CEO Charlie Thurston was the leading candidate to head it. But Thurston,
coming off a blockbuster ad sales year at the Los Angeles interconnect, denied that
executive-search speculation, saying, "I don't know anything about it."
Other MSOs not yet involved felt that that dream will take
quite a while to realize.
Jack Olson, vice president of Media Partners, the ad sales
arm of Adelphia Communications Corp., said earlier this year, "Anything of that
magnitude takes a lot of time and concessions. It's a huge undertaking. It'd
take a long time even if [a contract] were signed tomorrow."