Cable Operators Continue To Lag U.S. Ad Recovery

A few bad apples continued to drag spot cable advertising sales down during the third quarter of 2003. At a time when many emerging media would be posting robust rates of growth, spot cable ad sales declined 5 percent during the third quarter and the first three quarters of 2003, compared with the same periods in 2002, according to a MediaDailyNews analysis of data from the Big 7 cable operators that report their local and national spot advertising sales activity.

The weak industry performances comes despite strong results from a few major operators, especially Comcast, Insight, Mediacom and Cablevision. The main factor were steep declines by financially plagued Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications.

Time Warner experienced a 24 percent decrease in the third quarter and a 30 percent cut through the first three quarters, though much of the dip was due to comparisons with an inflated 2002 ad sales base, which included an extraordinary amount of "inter-company" sales from other Time Warner divisions.



While not exactly humming, the spot broadcast marketplace at least has been growing. Through the first half of 2003, local broadcast TV ad sales was up 0.2%, according to the Television Bureau of Advertising. Local broadcast results are expected to be even stronger when third quarter data is released in the next few weeks.

The weak advertising marketplace being reported by the major cable operators comes in contrast to the red-hot market being touted by local cable ad interconnects. Cable spot sales reps like National Cable Communications have been tracking double-digit ad sales increases for interconnect sales.

Q3, Year-To-Date Local Cable Ad Sales (In Millions)

Q3 '03 Vs. '02 YTD '03 Vs. '02
Time Warner $115.0 -24% $335.0 -30%
Cablevision $22.0 +10% $62.0 +3%
Comcast $276.0 +7% $797.0 +8%
Charter $64.0 -26% $188.0 -13%
Cox $99.5 +3% $278.3 +1%
Insight $14.6 +12% $42.3 +12%
Mediacom $10.8 +11% $30.7 +11%
Total $601.9 -5% $1,733.3 -5%
Source: MediaPost compilation of data from company reports.
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