ABC Pulls Media From OMD, Third Big 3 Net Account To Go Into Play

In a surprising and quiet move, ABC Television Network has shifted its nearly $50 million a year media business to Wieden + Kennedy from OMD USA, according to executives close to the companies.

Wieden + Kennedy already has ESPN, another Walt Disney Co. network, as a long-time creative and media client. ESPN spends $45.6 million in billings, according to TNS Media Intelligence. The business went to W+K without a review.

OMD USA has been lauded with awards for its print, online, and TV media work in launching ABC's hit show, "Lost," and has been praised for its work on "Desperate Housewives." The Wieden deal with ABC frees up OMD USA to pursue the CBS Corp. business--estimated to be significantly more than ABC's billings, at more than $100 million a year.

Two weeks ago, CBS decided to put its media business into review in the wake of its launch on January 1 as a separately traded public company. CBS split with the new Viacom Inc., which is now its own publicly traded company. Carat USA is the incumbent on the CBS business. George Schweitzer, president, CBS Marketing Group, told MediaDailyNews on January 13: "As you can imagine, we have gotten phone calls from almost everyone."



ABC, OMD USA, and Wieden + Kennedy executives didn't return phone calls by press time.

ABC's move would make it the third network in three months to either renew its media agency assignments, or put its business into review. NBC re-upped its $140 million media buying business with Horizon Media (Fallon Worldwide got NBC's media planning business) in November.

OMD has only one possible problem in participating in the CBS review: HBO.

CBS initially said Showtime would be included in the pitch. But executives close to the situation now say that is yet to be determined. Showtime brings a significant piece of the CBS deal. For the first ten months of 2005, Showtime spent $34.8 million. OMD would thus have a conflict keeping both competing pay TV networks.

HBO has billings of $67 million in 2004, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Through October of this year, HBO has bought $60.2 million in media. Showtime's media agency is Starcom Media Group, Chicago.

Wieden & Kennedy has earned major awards for its creative work for ESPN, Nike, and others. The agency also has a small but growing media division. Other clients include Time Warner Interactive, Coca-Cola/Powerade, Disney Channel, American Honda, and JetBlue Airways.

CBS spends more money than ABC to get on its network shows, said a media executive. That's because CBS's TV network shows didn't match up well when in the big unified Viacom family. The now separate Viacom cable networks--MTV Networks, VH1, Comedy Central, and BET--skew much younger that the CBS network shows. Therefore, CBS had to buy other messaging from non-Viacom own TV media. ABC, on the other hand, has older-skewing networks such as ABC Family, and a host of ESPN networks that skew to 18-49 or 25-54 viewers. ABC can get free or barter advertising/promotional time from its Disney-owned cable networks.

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