NCC Finds Silver Lining

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Leading spot-cable ad-sales rep firm National Cable Communications managed to
find some roses within the thorns of its downbeat reading of its first-quarter
business.

'We're going to be about 5 percent behind,' NCC executive vice president and
director of sales Andrew Ward said. But had NCC not aggressively addressed the
situation, that shortfall would have been greater, he added.

During the first quarter, NCC realized that the once-hot dot-com segment
would not match its 7 percent share of total volume from the year-earlier
period, Ward said.

It also figured that such perennials as the automotive and
media/entertainment sectors -- which accounted for a respective 40 percent and
21 percent of NCC's billings last year -- would not approach their prior
benchmarks, he added.

As a result, the firm sought to 'insulate ourselves by focusing on
nontraditional categories,' according to Ward.

In fact, what's now called the 'dot-bomb' category has virtually disappeared
this year, Ward said, and the automotive and media/entertainment categories have
plunged into 'the high-teens' in terms of their share of NCC billings.

But Ward found bright spots in the financial services, retail, restaurant and
beer categories, which offset the aforementioned declines.

'We've generated 15 percent of our [first-quarter] performance from those
sectors alone,' he added.

March and April have also been sluggish, but 'it looks a little better for
May,' NCC vice president of affiliate relations Steve Houck said.

NCC won't get a true handle on ad spending for the second quarter and beyond
until the outlook for the networks' upfront market becomes clearer, Ward
said.

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