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Cable Scatter Remains Strong

Cable networks are selling third-quarter scatter advertising now and are said to be commanding healthy, mid- to high-single-digit price hikes over the 2002 upfront.

According to Nielsen ad-tracking service Monitor-Plus, cable ad sales through April of this year totaled $5.536 billion.

Third-quarter scatter pricing is said to be a little better than in the second quarter, when economic worries kept some advertisers on the sidelines.

Second-quarter scatter was "strong," according to Andrew Ward, EVP, sales, for National Cable Network. But he qualifies the characterization, adding that the increases were "less than expectations due to war and economic factors."

Automotive remains the top category, while quick-service restaurants, home improvement, and travel and tourism have shown strong year-to-year growth, Ward says.

Meanwhile, in cable, there are two upfront markets. The main upfront, which parallels the broadcast year and runs from the fourth quarter through the third quarter, is basically complete. But a small number of advertisers prefer to do calendar-year upfront deals.

Cable networks are beginning to assemble and market calendar upfront packages now.

"We kept inventory back for all of our clients who did calendar years last year," Ward said. Such packages, he said, may prove especially attractive this year if, as he suspects, network scatter inventory is scarcer than usual. "The networks sold close to 85% of their inventory upfront and have held back 10% for under-deliveries so there's not much left for scatter."