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CAB Chief Explains Nixing of Online Ad Effort

Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau President/CEO Sean Cunningham says the cable industry recognizes that the future is electronic and online. However, it is not the version of an online ad auction his cable network members had been testing for the past month.

He filled B&C in on the CAB's realization after those big cable networks said they won't use a proposed eBay-hosted auction market for selling ad time,. The move strikes a major blow to the planned $50 million effort to create a new online ad market.

The CAB member national networks "will no longer be participating in further trials or usage of the eBay Online Media Exchange system effective immediately," CAB said Monday in a statement, making official last week's decision not to continue with the project.

The auction had been pushed by Wal-Mart's Julie Roehm and was being tested by the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau's network members, including Viacom, Discovery, ESPN, Lifetime, A&E, and Turner, which represent close to half of the top 100 ad-supported cable nets.

Wal-Mart and other advertisers were looking for an online route to potentially lower ad rates as a wider field competed for their business.

The cable nets had been kicking the tires on the system for a month, but concluded Monday it was "too narrow an application, had clear connectivity issues related to cable’s emerging end-to-end e-business platforms and lacked the provisions necessary for capturing critical strategic and idea-driven intelligence during a buy,” said Cunningham.

Cunningham also cited the refusal by "major members of the agency community" to participate in the test, including Starcom and Mediaedge:cia. Cunningham said CAB had been looking for broader agency participation beyond anchor agencies Magna Global, Zenith Advertising, Carat and PHD.

Cunningham said that, from the beginning, the promise was that more clients and agencies would be buying in to the concept, but that those promises did not materialize.

It was not a case of the risk that a stock market-like auction of ad time would result in lower prices and less money for cable nets.

Cunningham says no, and that "auction" is the wrong word anyway: "We know we have an electronic future," he says, adding that CAB would be open to doing what they do now more effectively and efficiently. This, he said, was about a system that the cable nets spent a month with and that lacked the functionality and breadth to capture nuanced process of buying and selling TV ad time. "We unanimously believed this was not going to work," he told B&C.