Ad sales are growing briskly not only for Rainbow
Advertising Sales Corp.'s new Regional News Representation division, but for its own News
12 Networks, said David Kline, president of the Cablevision Systems Corp. unit.
To give an idea how brisk sales have been, Robert Sullivan,
senior vice president of ad sales at the all-news channel, said 1999 first-half ad sales
growth was 19 percent ahead of a year ago. He projects that the division will maintain
that pace through year-end.
"News doesn't have the tremendous peaks and valleys
like entertainment does," Sullivan observed during an interview in Kline's office at
RASCO headquarters on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue.
The automotive category has been News 12's largest,
according to Sullivan, with general retail next.
News 12's sales surge has come chiefly from national and
regional clients, Kline said -- quite the opposite of what executives expected when the
unit was founded in 1986. RASCO had expected News 12's growth to "come from large
local accounts -- back when there were large local accounts," he recalled.
Since many local retailers, banks and auto dealers have
disappeared since then, Sullivan said, local sales have become "a nice, solid
platform on which to build -- with national and regional providing the growth."
That three-revenue-stream model should be a solid one not
only during the current boom period, but in possible future bearish times, Kline said.
"Most of our growth spurt this year can be attributed
to RNR," said Sullivan, citing sales to Wal-Mart and movie-studio business which
emanated from RNR's Los Angeles office.
News 12 Long Island, the oldest of Cablevision's networks,
now accounts for $15 per subscriber in ad revenue. The youngest, formed in mid-1998 in the
Bronx, N.Y., is closer to $3 a subscriber, Kline estimated.
But Kline predicted that the Bronx channel will grow
sharply in the next year or so, now that the borough is not just being covered for
Aside from a healthy economy and strong growth in various
categories, Sullivan said sponsorhips have been another key factor.
"The entitlement or sponsorship concept has been a
principal component of our sales since day one," in 1986, Sullivan said. These
sponsored segments range from community calendars and traffic-and-weather reports to
sports and business news.
On Long Island, the community calendar is sold to several
different advertisers, including European-American Bank (EAB), Nassau County Medical
Center and Bell Atlantic Corp. (The latter is also a longtime sponsor of Time Warner
Cable's New York 1 News Community Calendar, dating back to when it was New York Telephone
Elsewhere, Fleet Bank has sponsored the calendar in New
Jersey, where it is titled N.J. Connections, and in Connecticut, where it's called
News 12 also has sold entitlements for its sports programs
(to such clients as Lincoln-Mercury dealers, P.C. Richard & Son and Sleepy's) and its
business programs. For example, financial-services companies and luxury car makers have
bought the channels' daily, live coverage of the New York Stock Exchange, he said.
Other such sponsorships range from Avis Rent A Car (the
Avis Traffic & Weather Report), to Educator of the Month, sponsored by Hofstra
University, to an ongoing series of scholar/athlete profiles, bought by EAB.
These deals "can cement relationships for years,"
Sullivan said, citing the fact that Avis and Hofstra started their sponsorships 10 years
Looking ahead to next year, Sullivan said, the 2000
election campaigns should boost sales for cable networks, and regional-news channels in
particular. "It's going to be the best year news channels have seen, and local cable
Cable political-ad spending was "phenomenal in 1996
and even bigger last year," Sullivan said New York State's U.S. Senate campaign alone
is likely to "generate more than everything in 1996."
Added Kline: "I'd echo that on the national front too.
[Political] is going to be huge for RNR across the U.S." in 2000.
Should the 2000 campaign put new emphasis on ads aimed at
African Americans and Hispanics, he said, "we'll be ready for it" at both News
12 and the MSO. Black Entertainment Television is already "the No. 1 channel in the
Bronx for us" in ad sales, he noted.
News 12 is also likely to develop programming inspired by
the Summer Olympics, which will be covered by NBC and its sister cable services, CNBC and
MSNBC. He said those angles might encompass both "the obvious," such as
interviewing athletes from the tri-state area, and the offbeat -- focusing on vendors
supplying material to the Olympic Games, for example.
All told, News 12's five networks reach 3.2 million
subscribers, with the lion's share via News 12 New Jersey (1.7 million), Sullivan said.
Its Long Island, N.Y., network has 750,000 subscribers, he said, while the Bronx entry now
reaches 250,000. The Westchester and Connecticut networks account for the balance, with
the former reaching 250,000 homes, the latter 200,000. MCN
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