Tuesday, January 11, 2005

MemoGate, ad revenue and ratings

While Della Femina wasted our time, Frank Ahrens at the Washington Post was researching how MemoGate affected ad revenue at CBS. The scandal did indeed damage ratings for third-place CBS Evening News, but no matter. CBS primetime fare is #1 and rakes in the profits.

In fact, the article tells us, CBS Evening News only brings in 10% of total ad revenue for the news division. 60 Minutes must be the real news moneymaker -- so CBS can't be happy Mapes' report aired on a 60 Minutes-branded show.

Ahrens talked to an agency media buyer who revealed that "'CBS 'Evening News' and other CBS News programs had to give advertisers more commercial time to make up for lost audience numbers that are guaranteed in contracts."

So to re-cap, Mapes and Rather air a seriously flawed story on a primetime news show that shares a title with a long-respected brand. When questions arise, they stonewall, driving viewers away from ANOTHER show, CBS News Evening News, and the network is forced to offer costly "make-goods" to advertisers on ALL news shows.

If you were a network executive, you have to ask: why have a news division? Especially one that bleeds money AND causes a PR meltdown? No wonder then, that "'some people feel like CBS News could be out of business in five years.'" That's the real legacy of Mapes and Rather.

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