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RASCO Moves Rep Firm In-House

Rainbow Advertising Sales Corp. — which reinvented its spot-cable sales rep Cable Networks Inc. three years ago as Regional News Rep — has now morphed RNR into an in-house firm.

RASCO officials confirmed that RNR will phase out representation of third-party regional-news networks. It will still work for Cablevision Systems Corp.'s News 12 Networks and the New York Interconnect, though.

Deborah Cuffaro, who survived the previous transition when she was senior vice president of CNI, remains as senior vice president in RNR's latest iteration.

"It's about sharpening our focus" to concentrate on RASCO's core properties, said spokeswoman Chris Levesque, who noted that RNR will now also handle ad sales for Cablevision's New York assets, as well as Rainbow Media Holdings Inc.'s various cable networks.

RNR will continue to support its current third-party news services on an as-needed basis until year-end, she added.

News of RNR's decision came two weeks ago, when three regional news networks — ChicagoLand TV, New England Cable News and Washington's NewsChannel 8 — said they planned to form a New York-based sales-rep firm due to the "announced dissolution of RNR."

That joint announcement also noted that the three networks — which reach a combined 5.5 million cable homes — intended to open additional field offices "to cover other regions."

NECN, a joint venture of Hearst Corp. and AT&T Broadband, is the largest of the three, reaching nearly 2.7 million households. The Tribune Co.-owned ChicagoLand TV reaches about 1.7 million homes (mainly via AT&T Broadband), and Allbritton Communications' NewsChannel 8 covers almost 1.2 million homes.

RASCO's Levesque emphasized that the recent dissolution of two RNR-represented news networks in California — Orange County NewsChannel and San Francisco's BayTV — had nothing to do with the RNR revamp. Those news channels combined to reach more than 1.9 million subscribers.

RASCO first announced Regional News Rep's formation in September 1998; it opened for business in the first quarter of 1999.

In October of 2000, RNR added two news networks to boost its reach by 1.8 million to 20.5 million homes. At that time, Cuffaro said, "Basically, we cover the whole Northeast, except for [Time Warner Cable's] New York 1 News."

At that point, RASCO executives had estimated the firm might reach the 32 million-subscriber plateau — which would give it critical mass — in 2002.

The fall 2000 tally was up sharply from spring 1999, when the addition of five Cox Communications Inc.-owned news channels swelled RNR's overall subscriber count by 1.1 million, to 23 services reaching 16.5 million subscribers.

This past May, RNR forged a marketing partnership with the Association of Regional News Channels. The parties aimed to use electronic-mail messages, direct mail and print ads to raise awareness and drum up business among prospective advertisers and their ad-agency buyers.