Media buyers and executives from America’s television networks are expected to sit down this week and work out what to do with the sizeable number of ad dollars displaced by last week’s events.

As reported on Monday [WAMN: 17-Sep-01], networks dropped advertising until the weekend to cover developments following Tuesday’s attacks. The Big Four – NBC, Fox, CBS and ABC – are thought to have lost $150–$160 million in ad revenue between Tuesday and Friday, plus a further $35m–$40m three of the quartet would have taken during the cancelled National Football League games at the weekend.

Events have hit network finances hard - on top of an existing downturn in their ad revenue, last week’s incidents prompted advertisers from (among others) aviation, finance, travel, entertainment and insurance to pull campaigns, while news production costs leapt due to ongoing coverage.

“The TV network execs have been phenomenal,” gushed Dan Rank, OMD’s director of national broadcast. “They totally appreciate that some of our advertising is not going to be appropriate, and they are being very considerate about letting us pull out. Technically, they could have held us to our commitments.”

The question now, of course, is what to do with the money spent on the cancelled ad spots. Advertisers can either claim a rebate or use the money to run the ads at a later date – most are expected to choose the latter.

Fortunately for the networks, the weak ad market of late has left them with significant holes to fill in their fourth-quarter commercial time, meaning the transfer of displaced ad dollars should be relatively smooth.

Commented one anonymous media buyer: “This could actually benefit the advertisers by getting them into better-quality [new fall] programming and the networks by tightening up inventory, which could help them in the soft scatter market.”

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