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Business Grows at RASCOs Regional News Net Rep Unit

Rainbow Advertising Sales Co.'s Regional News Rep unit continued to make headlines last week by signing up two more regional-news networks.

The additions lifted its network roster to 22. It now reaches a combined 20.5 million cable households.

The latest members-237,000-subscriber Mid-South News Network in Memphis, Tenn., and 1.6-million subscriber Philly TV News in Philadelphia-raised the rep firm's subscriber tally by just over 1.8 million, said senior vice president Deborah Cuffaro.

The new outlets also add five more states to RNR's roster, she said.

"Basically, we now cover the whole Northeast, except for [Time Warner Cable's] New York 1 News," she noted.

Telecommunications-ad spending is "way up," with SBC Communications Inc. and Verizon Communications among the biggest spenders, Cuffaro said. Both companies are also big on entitlement sponsorships, such as community calendars. Auto dealers prefer to present sports-talk or sports-highlight shows, she noted.

The retail and financial segments are also growing, she added.

One major client using RNR as an unwired network across all of its markets is the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. The tax agency has just renewed for its third year "and tripled their investment," Cuffaro noted.

Political ad spending ran hot and cold, she said.

"We had significant spending in quite a few markets, but in others we did nothing," Cuffaro said. "We expected a lot more [political dollars]" than were amassed at various levels for the 2000 campaign. But as the campaign season enters its final two weeks, things are heating up.

"We had a great week [last] week," she said. "We can't clear orders fast enough."

Mid-South, which had handled its own ad sales, is carried by Time Warner Cable systems in several markets in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Philly TV News, which also had handled sales in-house since launching last January, is on about 10 different systems. Participating MSOs include Time Warner Cable, Comcast Corp. and Service Electric Cable TV Inc. Beyond the Philadelphia area, the network is carried by operators serving Harrisburg and Allentown, Pa., as well as New Castle County, Del.

RASCO's RNR began as a stand-alone operation in early 1999, following a hot streak in the second-half of 1998 in which national spot-sales rep firm Cable Networks Inc. lured NewsChannel 8 (Washington, D.C.), NorthWest Cable News (Seattle) and Pittsburgh Cable News Channel away from rival rep National Cable Communications.

By mid-May 1999, RNR had signed 23 networks with 16.5 million subscribers, up from 14 networks reaching 10 million subscribers in mid-1998. RNR now counts parent Cablevision Systems Corp.'s News 12 Networks as one service, rather than five, accounting for the current total of 22 networks.

RASCO estimated that the 32-million-household mark would be critical mass for RNR. Cuffaro projected last week that RNR could reach that milestone in 2002, as more regional services are launched.