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Adlink Tops $100M Benchmark, Again

Even though Adlink was among those media entities that saw the ad-sales locomotive slow down in the latter part of 2000, it still closed the books with its second consecutive $100 million-plus year.

Adlink is still the only interconnect that's surpassed that benchmark, winding up with $138 million, up 33 percent, said CEO Charlie Thurston. The interconnect's sales growth over the past four years was a dot-com-like 245 percent, he said.

Adlink's gross revenue per subscriber now approaches $50 a month, versus $37 in 1999, Thurston said.

"A parade of new programming" was a key driver of the sales surge, he said. Since early 1999, Adlink has added 24 insertable networks to its roster, for a total of 40 at the end of last year. It reaches 2.8 million cable subscribers in the Los Angeles DMA.

Effective this week, Adlink adds four more networks-ESPN Classic, Game Show Network, Outdoor Life Network and Speedvision. Now that it's essentially "run out of [analog]

networks with decent channel coverage in L.A.," Thurston said, it will shift its focus to digital.

For the past six months, Adlink and AT&T Broadband's Los Angeles system have worked with vendors nCUBE, Terayon Communication Systems Inc. and Motorola Inc. to test digital program insertion, or digital-into-digital streaming of commercials into digital networks.

DPI is being tested at a dozen AT&T headends and is expected to be rolled out elsewhere in the DMA "as digital penetration grows," Thurston said.

Sixty-five percent of Adlink's business is national and 35 percent is local, said executive vice president of sales and marketing Hank Oster. "A significant amount" of national business is generated via spot-cable rep firm National Cable Communications.

Unlike other MSOs and interconnects, Adlink didn't consider the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics to be a downer, Oster said.

"The Summer Olympics was not a disappointment," he said. "We sold it very aggressively, and it was a real moneymaker."

The games generated $3.2 million for Adlink, including $1.2 million within the CNBC and MSNBC avails. The rest came from other networks offered via package buys.

The Winter Olympics in February 2002 won't match that volume, Oster predicted.

"The Winter Games never have the cachet of the Summer [Games]," he said.

Movie-studio business-one of several categories targeted through Adlink's 2000 initiatives-was a breakthrough sector last year, Oster said. Other targeted sectors were beverages, technology and the Hispanic market. There also will be ongoing initiatives focused on the automotive and political categories.

The interconnect needs to improve its sales to foreign automakers, said Oster. It must also keep pressing the political community-especially those running Democratic and Republican candidates' campaigns-to buy more cable time than they did in 2000.

Though Adlink generated $9.3 million from political spots last year, Oster said much of that was from issues advertising.

The Hispanic audience is also an important target, Oster noted, as its share of the Los Angeles population is 38 percent at present and is projected to hit 50 percent by 2005. General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet division bought time on the interconnect to target that segment, he said.

Last year, Adlink booked $9.8 million in promotions that helped break some new clients-such as Lowe's Home Centers Inc., which backed Comedy Central's "The Laugh Riots" contest last fall.

The promotions also help lock in business. AM/PM Stores is in its fourth year of sponsoring ESPN's X Games promotions, she said.