Bright Side: Nets' Ad Losses Minimal

Several major cable programmers claimed they didn't take a hit on the ad-sales side because of the Big Blackout.

And the power outage didn't pull the plug on cable's overall ratings' growth.

"At the end of the day, it's really a thimble of water in the ocean," said Lou LaTorre, president of advertising sales for the Fox Cable Networks Group. "It's not like someone is going to spend $10 million over the course of a year and they're going to say, 'You owe me 36 viewers because of that blackout week.' "

Officials at Turner Broadcasting System Inc. and the ABC Cable Networks Group also said last week that they wouldn't have to give sponsors make-goods as a result of the Aug. 14 blackout, which cut the power in major markets such as New York, Detroit and Cleveland.

National cable advertisers buy ad time in such quantity, and over such long continuums of time, that the blackout had minimal impact, according to LaTorre.

"For cable networks, I can't even imagine it's going to register," he said.

Cable still drew its second-largest primetime share ever — 56.3 — during the week of Aug. 11 to 17, according to a Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau analysis of Nielsen Media Research data. That was up from 53.4 the year-ago period.

Cable's delivery was 32.9 million households, up from 31.0 a year ago, while its ratings were a 30.9, versus 29.4 a year ago.

The seven broadcast networks were down for that week in all categories. Broadcast's share was 35.0, versus 37.9 the same period a year ago, the CAB said. Broadcast's delivery dipped to 20.4 million homes from 22.0 a year ago, while ratings dropped slightly to 19.1 from a 20.9 a year ago.

The blackout did "slightly impact viewership" for Turner Network Television's PGA Championship coverage, but that "was hard to quantify," a Turner spokesman said.

When ABC Cable Networks Group reported Nielsen Media Research numbers for the outage week, TNT programming it labeled as "PGA Championship blackout" — from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 14 –— did a 1.0 rating. That was less than the 1.9 and 1.7 the golf coverage garnered during the days after the blackout, Aug. 15 to 17.

There was an information blackout as to how the outage affected local cable ad sales. Officials at two big MSOs in New York — Time Warner Cable and Cablevision Systems Corp. — couldn't be reached for comment.

Comcast Corp. is the major operator in Detroit, which has a major interconnect, and has a large system in northern New Jersey.

"We're still gathering information and trying to assess the impact," a spokeswoman for Comcast Ad Sales said.