CNN is getting election fever early.
With candidates already on the campaign trail and important primaries being moved up to February 2008, CNN will be selling election coverage packages during the upcoming upfront advertising sales market.
In past years the multimillion-dollar packages have covered four quarters, or roughly a calendar year. This cycle, the packages will cover five quarters.
“We’re expecting a blazing election trail,” said Greg D’Alba, executive VP and chief operating officer of CNN advertising sales and marketing. “There’s going to be a lot of coverage. There will be a lot of interest. There will be a lot of users. There will be a lot of ad spending. Whether it’s candidate money, advocacy money or corporate campaign sponsorship activity, spending across the board will be way up next year.”
Mr. D’Alba said CNN’s major election packages will be integrated and multiplatform, encompassing the Web, broadband video, video-on-demand, mobile and other technologies.
He aims to get between four and six major sponsors. Since there probably will be more coverage than in the past, there might be room for a larger number of sponsors.
Four years ago Chrysler signed up early for CNN’s election package, then valued at about $5 million per sponsor. Other 2004 election sponsors included Samsung and AT&T.
During the 2006 midterm elections, CNN had three election coverage sponsors: Norfolk Southern, the American Association of Retired Persons and the Partnership for Prescription Assistance.
Fox News Channel overtook CNN as the leading news network in terms of ratings several years ago, but CNN has been touting its ability to reach additional viewers through new-media platforms.
That approach is resonating with advertisers, Mr. D’Alba said.
“Two years ago, 20 percent of our conversation was about media integration. Last year 40 percent to 45 percent of our conversation was about media integration, content integration,” and this year it’s up to 80 percent, he said. “That doesn’t necessarily translate into 80 percent of the spending being integrated, but the fact of the matter is that it’s more the norm than the exception, and it’s really created a different business model as we speak.”
While CNN’s ad revenues are growing, however, Fox News Channel’s are growing faster. According to estimates by Kagan Media, Fox News will surpass CNN in ad sales during 2007. Kagan expects Fox News to generate $507 million in gross ad revenue compared with $467 million for CNN. MSNBC’s ad revenues are expected to rise to $156 million.
Fox News Channel and MSNBC declined to discuss their upfront and election sponsorship plans.
Mr. D’Alba said CNN will be putting together a number of other integrated multiplatform packages during the upfront in areas including lifestyle, fitness and retirement.
“There’s going to be more money in the marketplace if you measure the market in its totality,” including both clients who buy in May-June, based on the broadcast year, and those who buy in December-January, based on the calendar year, he said.
But the additional money may not be spent against ratings points across the board.
“More money is going to be spent against content and how it reaches more consumers through technology,” Mr. D’Alba said. “I’m not discounting the value of linear television. It is still very much the core of our business with CNN. But I’m also documenting the demand for more content to reach more available consumers creating greater reach because of technology.”
That should add up to a good year for CNN, Mr. D’Alba said.
“Look at the strength of integration and you look at the strength of the upfront that we’re talking about when it comes to vertical integration, and you combine that with an election year for a content machine like CNN, the picture looks incredibly strong,” he said.