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Cable ad sales up more than on broadcast networks

Advance advertising sales made dramatic gains this year for cable channels over the broadcast networks, the “New York Times” reported.

Advance sales indicate that the cable channels will collectively sell about $8 billion in airtime to advertisers this season, up 7 percent to 8 percent from last year’s total, preliminary figures showed. By contrast, the broadcast networks sold about $9.1 billion to $9.2 billion, up about 1 percent over last season.

The newspaper noted that the shift in advertising dollars from broadcast to cable is not new, but it is particularly pronounced this year. Analysts said there are several explanations including the fact that the most popular cable channels on their best nights now attract nearly as many viewers as some of the less popular broadcast networks. Overall, the ratings gap, once vast, has been gradually narrowing.

While all the broadcasters — with the exception of Fox — posted significant ratings declines in the television season that ended in May, many cable networks are setting new ratings records. However, the newspaper said, ratings are not the only explanation.

Other factors include the increasing fragmentation in media, which forces advertisers to place more bets in different places; the development of new niche channels, which can siphon ad dollars away from general-interest programming; and last winter’s writers’ strike, which made the fresh content available on cable look more attractive.

“The natural shift of dollars to cable will continue,” Jason Kanefsky, a senior vice president and account director at the media buying agency MPG, told the “Times.” “It just makes sense. Why pay more for eyeballs on CBS when you can go out and buy eyeballs on Turner for half the price?”