News Networks Raise Ad-Unit Rates

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Big post-Sept. 11 ratings for all-news networks have driven an increase in advertising sales, executives at Fox News Channel, Cable News Network and MSNBC said last week.

"Advertisers see a bad advertising marketplace as an opportunity, and if enough people see it as an opportunity, more money than anybody thinks tends to get spent," said Fox News vice president and national sales director Roger Domal.

On average, Fox News has raised its prices for 30-second advertising units by 40 to 50 percent, Domal said.

CNN executive vice president for ad sales Greg D'Alba said the network is charging 20 percent more for each advertising unit than it had before Sept. 11 attacks.

MSNBC has doubled its prices in some dayparts, said vice president of ad sales Seth Winter.

One veteran ad-agency executive confirmed the higher prices for news networks.

"Yes, it's true that FNC is 'asking' for higher rates due to their ratings increase since Sept. 11, and they have seen some scatter activity," said the major media buyer, speaking on the condition of anonymity. He noted that Fox News' Nielsen ratings have "grown tremendously versus a year ago, more than double, so the rate hike is their attempt to get to cost parity with CNN."

Still, he suggested that the news networks may be encountering some difficulties in actually garnering those increases. "What they are able to secure is dependent on marketplace conditions, and the scatter market overall has not been particularly robust," the official said.

Winter, D'Alba and Domal wouldn't discuss specific unit pricing.

As the asking price for spots climb, the ratings battle has become a two-horse race between CNN and Fox News.

Fox News beat CNN in primetime for the week ended Nov. 11, pulling a 1.4 Nielsen Media Research rating and 1 million households. That topped CNN's 1.1 rating and 931,000 households. MSNBC was a distant third, generating a 0.7 rating and 476,000 households.

CNN and FNC tied for total-day ratings for the week ended Nov. 11, each posting a 0.8 rating. MSNBC registered a 0.5 rating over that span.

FNC's Fox & Friends
morning show has seen big increases, pulling a 0.9 rating and 699,00 households from Nov. 5 to Nov. 9. That topped competitor and former FNC anchor Paula Zahn, whose CNN morning show posted a 0.8 rating and 680,000 households during the same week.

CNN stressed that it continues to do well during crisis events. On Nov. 12, when an American Airlines jetliner crashed in New York, CNN won the day with a 2.2 rating, topping FNC's 1.6 and MSNBC's 1.1, respectively.

Jim Forkan contributed to this story.

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