Broadcasters take in stride expenses, loss of ad revenue

Feb 10, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Within minutes of NASA losing communications with the shuttle on its landing descent, commercial breaks were being canceled and satellite trucks, equipment, producers and reporters-plus hired expert analysts-were being deployed in Texas, Florida and along the route of the debris.
The price of covering the story for each network started at several hundred thousand dollars for the weekend and rose to more than $1 million by the week’s end, when the pace and scope of the story were slowing and some incremental efficiencies were kicking in.
News executives, who have been marshaling their resources in preparation for the Bush administration’s war against Iraq, were not worried they would have to make any tough trade-offs to pay for Columbia coverage.
“It’s something else we budget for: [the likelihood] that things are going to go bump in the night,” said MSNBC President Erik Sorenson. “Each quarter we figure we are going to lose some spots” to breaking news.
The loss of ad revenue through late afternoon Saturday (when CBS and ABC moved on to scheduled sports events with commercial breaks) and later (MSNBC was last to resume commercials at 9 p.m. Saturday and opted to lighten Sunday’s commercial load) did not have network or station executives sweating the consequences.
With nearly all of the February sweeps and two full months in the quarter left in which to reschedule pre-empted commercials, network and station executives were optimistic that they could accommodate the make-goods. “I don’t think there’s a big revenue issue with what happened,” said an executive with a major station group.