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NCC: Cable Spot Sales to Rise 19%

Double-digit gains are evidently in order for national spot cable this year, according to National Cable Communications.

The New York-based spot ad-sales rep firm last week estimated that spot cable was up 16 percent over the first nine months of 2002, en route to what it believes will be a 19 percent rise for the full year.

Industry-wide estimates call for spot-cable sales to reach roughly $560 million this year.

NCC is banking its projection on a hefty 28 percent increase in spot sales for the final quarter, bolstered by "a healthy political advertising market."

Tom Olson, NCC's CEO, attributed the strong ad-sales gains so far this year to "a host of successful initiatives we've put in place over the past 18 months"— all aimed at making spot-cable buying more advertiser-friendly.

According to Olson, those initiatives include: a 12 percent (or 17-person) increase in NCC's sales force this year; a broadening in the focus of its sales-development efforts; heightened participation in cable-network sales-promotion opportunities; the expansion of an in-house electronic-billing system; and continuing strides with MSOs toward interconnecting key markets.

The electronic billing system alone has "sped up the invoicing process threefold," Olson said.

And the number of top-100 DMAs consolidated either by NCC or MSOs now stands at 54, Olson added. Such one-stop shopping capabilities should spread to 75 of the top 100 by the end of next year, he predicted.

CPM gains

In another ad-industry development, Jack Myers Reports
last week predicted that costs per thousands (CPMs) for the major niche services should advance 4 percent next year, matching the ratio achieved by cable news networks.

But in releasing Myers
2002-03 upfront price estimates for cable networks, principal Jack Myers estimated that CPMs for broad-based services were down 2 percent from 2001-02, while so-called "third-tier" programmers were off 3 percent.

Myers singled out MTV: Music Television, E! Entertainment Television and Comedy Central as averaging 8 percent CPM growth, with ESPN ahead 6 percent.

But USA Network made early-upfront deals at CPM decreases of between 8 percent and 15 percent, Myers said, And Lifetime Television also sought to increase its share of ad revenues by cutting CPMs "in the low single digits," he added.

Myers said the Big Four broadcast TV networks boosted their CPMs by an average of 7.5 percent in the upfront.

Turning to the post-upfront scatter marketplace, Myers said tight TV and cable inventory has translated into overall CPM increases "as high as 20 percent and even to 30 percent." That tightness has bolstered the fortunes of "the second- and third-tier networks," the analyst added.