CNN Touts Viewers' Big Buying Power

New York— Positioning itself against top-rated Fox News Channel, Cable News Network has armed itself this upfront with research that claims it's the dominant service among upscale viewers with mega-buying power.

"All rating points are not created equal," said Larry Goodman, president of CNN sales and marketing.

Last week, CNN offered the media a sneak peek at the presentation it will make to ad agencies in the coming weeks. And a good portion of CNN's upfront pitch contrasts the quality of its audience with that of rival Fox News, which in 2002 was the highest-rated cable news service.

Goodman trotted out research from such sources as Roper Center and the "2002 Mendelsohn Affluent Survey" to bolster his contention that CNN — more so than any other network — is reaching "affluent consumers, influential consumers" who actually reach into their wallets to buy upscale products, like autos and financial services.

"As income goes up, CNN's reach goes up with it," he said.

Revenue edge

Even as Fox News's audience has grown, CNN has registered rating and revenue gains, according to Goodman. Last year, CNN's viewership among adults 25 to 54 increased 30 percent, with Headline News ahead 41 percent, he said.

"Competition has in some ways been good," Goodman said. "They haven't hurt our revenue. Our audience is growing. And by all qualitative measurement, they've really served to heighten the difference between who we are and what they are."

Despite Fox News's ratings explosion, it still lags behind CNN in ad revenue. Goodman maintained that based on a Fox official's remarks at a UBS Warburg investor conference last December, the news service's ad revenue is in the $130 million range.

That contrasts with prior claims by Fox News senior vice president of advertising sales Paul Rittenberg, who in published reports earlier this year said the service posted $200 million in ad sales in 2002, with $300 million projected for this year.

Reports back claims

"We have actually have more than three times their revenue just on a domestic basis, just CNN and Headline News," Goodman claimed. "And CMR would back that up, and so would Nielsen."

According to Nielsen Monitor-Plus data for January to October of last year, the most recent data available, CNN's ad revenue was at $269.2 million, with Headline News at $101.9 million and FNC at $94.5 million. According to CMR/TNS Media Intelligence, CNN and Headline News tallied 2002 ad revenue of $352.4 and $151.3 million, respectively, versus $91.6 million for Fox News.

A Fox News spokeswoman declined to comment.

The networks' client bases are also quite different, Goodman said. Of CNN's top 100 advertisers, only 44 also purchase time on FNC.

"We don't have a lot of packaged-goods [ads] like Fox," Goodman said. "Our categories are very different."

CNN also laid out its plans if war breaks out in Iraq.

"We're going to run the first few days commercial-free," said Turner Broadcasting Sales Inc. executive vice president Greg D'Alba. "Then we'll slowly break into a modified break structure … We've had very few advertisers, if any, that have requested out."