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Shift To Basic Cable

Furniture World Magazine


We must adapt or face the consequences of bad media decisions.

There was an explosion four months ago which should have rocked you out of your chair. It came from Atlanta, and it had profound reverberations throughout the country. And now, nearly four months after the men and women of Turner Broadcasting Sales, Inc. unveiled a damaging network prime-time alternative-reach analysis, the broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, WB and UPN) are beginning to respond.

It is real important that you, on the local level, understand what is happening in television, because, it will affect your business and the way you advertise in the future....the very near future.

At first, network broadcast executives say they opted to ignore the study released by Turner. They said they were concerned that any attempt to challenge Turner's "Media At The Millennium" study would make the broadcast networks appear defensive and would add to the credence of Turner's efforts.

Those crazy people at Turner suggested that advertisers could shift a significant portion of their prime-time broadcast budgets to basic cable (CNN, CNN Headline News, The Weather Channel, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN News, CNNSI, Fox News, fx, BET, A&E, Discovery, Learning, TNT, TBS, HGTV, Food Channel, MSNBC, CNBC, Eye on People, USA, Animal Planet, History Channel, Nickelodeon, Family, E!, CourTV, Nostalgia, CNNfn, Travel, FVC, ME/U, Sci-Fi, Cartoon, CMT, Comedy, Prevue, VH-1, MTV, Lifetime and TNN), without losing any reach, but gain significant cost savings.

Those of you who have read this column during the past three years know that the future for home furnishings dealers is cable television because it has great reach and costs you less. Now, Turner Broadcasting Sales is saying the same thing. And, it is gaining widespread attention.

It is having a fundamental impact on the psychology of the national television marketplace as major marketers and advertising agencies begin planning their upfront buys for the 1997-98 television season. Several top network buying agencies and their clients said they embraced the Turner study both because they agree with its overall conclusions, but also because it can be a powerful leveraging point in their upfront negotiations with the networks.

At its core, the Turner study is brilliant. It offers a wide range of scheduling alternatives. And that is what people are watching....alternative programming. They are tired of the same old thing, offered up by the same old producers and writers who have been through the mill for decades and are promoted from within by broadcast companies because they want a "sure" thing on their schedule. The only "sure" thing they are getting is a "sure drop" in network ratings. People are tired of a retread of this show or that show. There are fresh ideas out there, and people are watching them...on cable.

Given the pressure on network prime-time inventory, most buyers are expecting that the costs will be exorbitant and most view the Turner option as welcome news. Now they can wield a mighty hammer and have their clients in front of a whole lot more prospective customers for less cost. By Turner's internal estimates, even a modest shift in network prime-time allocation could drive $250 million to $500 million to basic cable, and that number ultimately could rise to $1 billion.

That's on the national scene. On the local market, things could get real tight fast. And this is where you can win. Call your local cable provider today and ask to see them with regard to placing a large order for the coming year. Then when they come in to see you, lock up a yearly package with them at a fixed rate. You can do this. And for those of you who do not know how to do this, just give us a call. This is information which will save you money. And there isn't a furniture dealer alive who does not want to take advantage of that.

One broadcast network sales chief said that, "It could have been a tactical mistake that we have not addressed this sooner." He went on to say, "I think advertisers and clients want to believe it, because intuitively they are (expletive deleted) off with rising prices and declining ratings."

Go win the battle for the consumers disposable income today. Get on cable and stay there with at least 30% of your budget.

Lance G. Hanish is the President of Lance Benefield & Co., Inc. Worldwide, a leading marketing communications firm serving home furnishings retailers. Questions on any aspect of television media management or production can be direct to Mr. Hanish care of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine at lhanish@furninfo.com.