Regional News Nets Plot Marketing Push

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New York — Rainbow Advertising Sales Corp.'s Regional News Rep unit, which has locked up virtually all of the regional news channels, is now ready to embark on its next step: marketing.

Two weeks ago, RNR and the nine-year-old Association of Regional News Channels formed a marketing committee that now intends to break a multimedia marketing campaign at the end of the third quarter.

The two parties will target the advertiser community through direct mail, electronic-mail messages and print ads that aim to both raise awareness of regional news networks and drum up buys for 2002, said RNR senior vice president Deborah Cuffaro, who is spearheading the committee's effort.

There will also be a consumer component: 30-second on-air promos will promote the regional news channel concept.

"Since the creation of the first regional news channel 15 years ago — [Cablevision Systems Corp.'s] News 12 Long Island — individual networks have undertaken their own marketing efforts," Cuffaro said. "With the explosion of channels in the past few years, it is now strategically important to market the overall concept of local news channels and the benefits we impart to viewers."

The ARNC, formed in 1992, now counts 25 news-channel members. Those networks reach some 25 million households.

RNR now represents 26 channels, covering the lion's share of the regional-news universe, or about 24 million homes, Cuffaro said. Only the three Time Warner Cable-owned channels are outside of its fold: National Cable Communications represents New York 1 News in the nation's No. 1 DMA, as well as outlets in Tampa, Fla., and Rochester, N.Y.

The overall regional news network universe should stand at 30 million by year's end, Cuffaro estimated. That's due to the development of other proposed news networks, as well as ongoing subscriber growth among existing channels.

Time Warner plans two North Carolina channels, slated to bow this December and in January 2002, industry sources said. The MSO is planning others for Houston and San Antonio and eyeing at least two other markets, the sources added.

Cox Communications Inc.'s five news channels — which reach about 1.5 million subscribers — are the only outlets that do not yet belong to ARNC. Cuffaro said she will meet early this week with Cox vice president of ad sales Billy Farina, with an eye toward eventually signing those outlets.

Cox added a 175,000-subscriber channel in Tulsa on May 1, joining other news operations in San Diego, Phoenix, Oklahoma City, Okla. and Omaha, Neb.

Some of RNR's major clients include the Internal Revenue Service and The Home Depot Inc., whose 13-market how-to entitlement buy runs through first-quarter 2002.

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