For Prime Ads, Big Four Nets Balk at Obama

Executives at the Big Four broadcast networks, upset that President Barack Obama has cumulatively cost them more than $30 million in revenue from preempted prime-time programming for three press conferences, say getting advertisers to sponsor future press events as a way to recoup lost revenue isn’t a viable option.

After Fox balked at airing Obama in prime time on April 29, other nets joined in, saying they would consider the same action going forward depending on the event’s relevance.
Industry observers wondered why networks couldn’t just get advertiser sponsors. Some suggested an ad prior to the conference and one at the end, with an on-screen logo, appearing during the conference.

But Big Four execs see it differently. Les Moonves, president and CEO of CBS Corp. said, “We lose more than $3 million a show [when it’s preempted]. No advertiser is going to put up that much money as a sponsor.”

Mike Shaw, ABC sales president, agreed. “We sell sponsorships for the presidential debates, but that is [for] scheduled programming, not preemptions,” he said. “For the most part, advertisers are not anxious to get involved in politics. It would be a tough sell.”

Jon Nesvig, Fox sales president, took it from the audience’s perspective: “It would probably annoy many viewers.”

A representative for NBC Universal was more blunt: “That’s not an option being considered.”