Global Brief: US networks give heart to ITV - The mass-market channel should learn from the US figures, Richard Cook says reports

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 the pond.

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

the pond.



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

SuperBowl.



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

there.



Unfortunately, and for the first time ever, the World Series was

scheduled to be shown on Fox.



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