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TV Takes to the Bottle

NEW YORK: Broadcast TV networks are cruising for more alcohol ad dollars. The New York Postnotes that CBS dipped its toe into the hard stuff this year, airing an ad for Absolut Vodka during the February telecast of the Grammy Awards. Broadcasters traditionally stop at beer and wine for fear of alienating viewers, but with national ad revenues down in the first quarter by more than 4 percent compared to last year, the spirits industry sees an opportunity. Distillers spend an estimated $451 million on advertising.

“With the economy and what’s happening to corporations, more and more people are accepting liquor advertising,” Patron executive Matt Carroll told the Post. Patron has found air-time on NBC O&Os during “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien,” since June 1. Chivas Regal Scotch also showed up on “Tonight” on O&Os in New York, Chicago and Dallas. CBS took the unprecedented step of running the vodka ad in prime time. It aired in 15 markets.

Spirits likely would boost network revenues, but not to any great extent. The industry spent nearly $57 million across 14 media platforms in the first quarter of 2009, according to TNS Intelligence. The total was down nearly 18 percent from a year earlier.

By comparison, beer and wine makers spent more than $250 million in 1Q09, down one-tenth of 1 percent from last year. Of the total, network TV took in 62 percent, or more than $155 million, up 15 percent from 1Q08 when networks netted nearly $135 million from beer and wine ads. -- Deborah D. McAdams