Comcast Casts Spotlight On New Ad Unit, Creates 'Super Interconnect'

Comcast Corp., already the biggest player in local and national spot cable advertising sales, today is expected to unveil a new national cable advertising sales unit representing local cable ad units on systems in 75 television markets, including many of the nation's largest. The new unit, Comcast Spotlight, will represent both ad inventory on Comcast's own systems -- now covering 71 markets, including 22 of the top 25 -- as well as those of rival cable operators.

The move expands on what is already the largest national spot cable sales organization, which in 2003 took in more than $1 billion in local cable advertising sales, nearly a quarter of all local cable advertising sales. Through the first nine months of 2003, Comcast reported cable advertising sales revenues of $797 million. The Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau has projected $5.3 billion in local cable advertising sales for 2004, which would represent more than a quarter of the $19.518 billion the CAB projects for total cable advertising sales for the year.



Comcast, already one of the key stimulants of the local cable ad boom, has been assembling an elite team of national spot sales executives, many of them former top broadcast TV sales executives. The effort has been led by Charles Thurston, the smart, ambitious president of Comcast's burgeoning advertising sales unit, who has his sights set on taking share from the $28 billion local TV advertising marketplace.

What's unclear is how the Comcast Spotlight unit will impact existing relationships, especially the role of National Cable Communications (NCC), which had been the largest representative of local cable advertising inventory to national advertisers. NCC is partly owned by Comcast, along with other major cable operators, but by taking on national sales rep duties for rival cable operators, Comcast Spotlight effectively will be competing with NCC.

The structure is reminiscent of the national spot radio sales structure of Clear Channel Communications, which owns Katz Media, a major national spot radio sales firm that represents stations operated by other owners.

Even before the new sales structure, Comcast already was a 71-market gorilla. Following its acquisition of AT&T's cable operations, Comcast has emerged as the nation's largest cable TV operator with systems in 71 markets, and a cable ad sales organization employing nearly 3,100 people.

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