USA: No Cash Back for U.S. Open

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With rain playing havoc with the U.S. Open Tennis Championships last week, USA Network was scrambling to make sure that advertisers were made whole — within the confines of the tournament schedule.

As rain and mist soaked the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., from Monday through Thursday last week, USA was only able to present 11 hours of live play among the 38 it telecast, according to a network spokesman.

Still, Universal TV president of ad sales Jeff Lucas said that USA, which scored a "20% increase in volume" for the 2003 event, said it was his goal to "get everything taken care of in the tournament. We don't give cash back, and I don't think we'll have to offer make-goods in entertainment programming or next year's tournament."

Lucas said USA had held back some inventory at the outset of the tournament as a safeguard against audience delivery shortfalls and based upon inclement weather that also plagued the 2002 Open. "I sat out here every day last year when it rained. We learned our lesson and were well-prepared," he said.

USA's Open performance last year had an "index of 170," meaning it overdelivered for clients, Lucas added.

He also pointed to USA's commitment to the event and its ability to add coverage hours as a make-goods makeup. "If they dry off the court at 6 p.m., we're on at 6:01 p.m. We don't have the daypart and affiliate worries that CBS [the tournament's broadcast rights-holder] has."

USA's cause may have been helped by the addition of the women's semifinals last Friday night. Those matches were moved to accommodate the backlog that saw all four of the men's quarterfinals matches play out on the afternoon of Sept. 5 on CBS.

From Aug. 25-28, USA averaged a .9 in primetime for the 2003 Open. At presstime, no other data was available, owing to Nielsen delays. Over 110 hours in 2002, USA's rating averaged 1.5.

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