If ITV wanted to seek a little solace ahead of the launch of
Channel 5. If it felt a little left out in a month when it became clear
just how much its natural viewer wanted to watch the big sporting events
that are now the preserve of the opposition. If it felt uncertain about
the place of a mainstream terrestrial TV station in a multi-channel
future, it could do worse than glance at figures emerging from across
According to numbers released last week, the big three US networks, CBS,
NBC and ABC, together recorded a 12 per cent improvement in ad revenues
in 1996. A double digit revenue increase is nothing to be sniffed at in
an ordinary year, but 1996 wasn’t supposed to be a great year for the
networks, not least because the round of ownership and management
changes - led by Disney’s swoop on ABC - was expected to take some time
to settle down.
Then there was the baseball World Series which traditionally draws in
advertiser-friendly male viewers in numbers second only to the
But that didn’t matter - NBC had the Olympic rights and the Atlanta
Games helped ad revenue around sports shows increase 45 per cent to
dollars 1.8 billion.
The success for all three networks was about primetime.
This, it seems, is precisely where the mass-market channel can thrive in
today’s multi-channel environment. It’s certainly not in children’s
shows, where sales around kids programming fell 16.3 per cent over the
year. It’s not in the late-night programming, which slipped by 4.4 per
cent over the last quarter of the year alone.
Absolute viewer numbers may still be falling, but if advertisers want to
reach a young upmarket demographic, the type that watches the hit NBC
series, Friends, they have to go to the networks.
Despite the choice, they have to pay handsomely - ITV take note - to go
Unfortunately, and for the first time ever, the World Series was
scheduled to be shown on Fox.