Aggregated US advertising spending across all media in 2003 rose 6.1% to $128.3 billion (€103.19bn; £69.77bn), reports TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

But this overall increase contrasts with a mere 1.8% rise in network-TV expenditure, reveals the ad-monitoring firm, implying that marketers are seeking more cost-effective alternatives.

"A lot of marketers can't afford to keep paying more and more for network TV and they have begun to look for alternatives," opines Jim Poh, media director at Miami shop Crispin Porter + Bogusky.

Publicis Groupe's ZenithOptimedia takes a similar view. Says Bob Flood, evp and director of national electronic media: "Advertisers are looking for new options because network TV continues to suffer erosion in viewers." The diminishing audience is instead finding entertainment in other couch-potato activities, such as watching DVDs, digital cable and cruising the internet.

Cable, it seems is fast becoming marketers' flavor of the year. Measured outlays leapt 15.6% to $12.3 billion in 2003 -- way ahead of cable TV adspend a year earlier, which rose by just 2.9%.

Explains TNS Media president/ceo Steven J Fredericks: "Advertisers are more interested in cable rather than network TV because there is an ability to reach audiences with specific interests."

Likewise, the need to reach niche audiences also boosted adspend in Spanish-language network TV, which saw expenditure jump 12.8% to $2.2 billion last year.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff