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Turner Touts Cable's 'Reach'

Aimed at the most number-crunchy of ad buyers, Turner Broadcasting Systems is entering this year's upfront with a highly technical pitch targeting broadcast networks' perceived superiority in overall "reach" to TV viewers.

Turner has stitched together a high-end database package employing Nielsen ratings and commercial-pricing data to allow media planners to make quicker and extremely detailed substitutions among various broadcast and cable networks. The goal is to convince buyers that despite cable's small and fragmented viewership, cable networks' reach of unduplicated viewers isn't as inferior as many buyers think. And, with cable viewers selling for 50% less than broadcast eyeballs, Turner executives argue that a campaign that can achieve its targeted reach lowers the average cost of an ad schedule.

The T-MAP database (for Turner Multidimensional Analytical Platform) focuses on major advertisers' desire for high reach; that is, to direct a commercial to as many different individual viewers as possible at least once. Hitting the same viewer with a commercial twice boosts a campaign's frequency without bolstering reach.

Barry Fischer, executive vice president of marketing and research and the leader of Turner's Media at the Millennium III effort, said that most buyers see cable as a way to cheaply build frequency, hitting the same viewers again and again. Both cable and broadcast "deliver reach. They both deliver frequency," he said. "It's all about finding balance."

Turner plans to use T-MAP in one-on-one meetings with agencies, to run them through the paces of their own previous campaigns. The argument is that, after the first airings on big broadcast shows, reaching for those last few unduplicated broadcast viewers can be expensive. Even if the cost per ratings point is rather low, the cost per incremental "reach point" can be extraordinarily high.

Fischer gave examples of ad campaigns in which the reach points at the start were very cheap, less than $100,000 per point. But after hitting, say, 65% of the audience, the push to 75% (or 10 reach points) could hit $1 million to $4 million on broadcast. But a random grab of spots on cable brought the cost of those last reach points down.