Naked City

No Ads = No Money

While you may have been relieved that last week's broadcast coverage of the assaults on New York and Washington, D.C., was commercial-free, those hours of missing ad time add up to thousands of dollars in lost revenues for broadcasters. So far, says LBJ-S Broadcasting general manager Scott Gillmore, almost all advertisers on his stations elected to postpone their ad schedules rather than cancel spots entirely. (LBJ-S owns Austin's only remaining news-talk station, KLBJ-AM.) Come next month, those advertisers will either cut back on their October buys -- thereby cutting LBJ-S revenues -- or get a surfeit of extra spots as their postponed ads finally run.

À la LBJ-S, local radio affiliates typically pay a flat rate for network feed, regardless of how much time is live. But local TV advertising is typically more time-sensitive and thus more likely to be canceled than pushed back. KVUE Vice President and General Manager Patti Smith says the initial costs of last week "appear to be in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars," and newspapers around the country report that stations in comparable markets lost between $50,000 and $100,000 a day -- not counting any extra expenses they incurred doing local newsgathering. "The cost to the station pales in comparison with the loss of life and the tragedy that the family and friends of those that are lost are having to endure," Smith says.

Meanwhile, the major TV networks have really taken it in the shorts -- or whatever it is Mickey Mouse wears -- both losing revenue and ponying up substantial funds to pay for their wall-to-wall coverage. The Walt Disney Company -- owners of ABC, which provides 20% of their total revenue -- reported that the value of its stock fell nearly by half on the first day of trading after the disaster. The other news nets' parent companies didn't do much better.

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