Time Inc. CEO sees growth despite the strongest broadcast upfront deals in years

MUMBAI: AOL Time Warner's publishing empire Time Inc.'s CEO Ann Moore has predicted a five per cent growth in advertising revenues in 2003.

Meanwhile, an adage report says that the strongest broadcast prime-time upfront in years concluded with a 15 per cent increase to a wildly strong $9.31 billion has been a cause of worry to other media including print publications.

Moore told Reuters that she was looking to slash another $35 million of costs to reach her $100 million goal, but was not planning to close titles to achieve that and wanted instead to launch two new titles at the start of 2004.

Time Inc., whose best selling magazines include Time, People and Entertainment Weekly, booked strong advertising in the first quarter but a flat second quarter, and the publisher is holding out for a five percent rebound in the second half, Moore was quoted as saying in a Reuters report.

"Fortunately, the war only really hit us for three weeks, we had three weeks of really weak bookings, and the last two weeks of bookings have really sprung back," she said in an interview at the World Magazine Congress in the French capital.

Moore took the reins of Time Inc., the world's biggest magazine publisher, last year after successfully transforming its most profitable title, People, into a powerhouse brand.

Having posted 11 years of earnings growth, Time Inc. is seen as key to AOL Time Warner's success, especially with some of the indebted media giant's other divisions performing badly, adds the Reuters report.

After an absence of significant new launches, The Time Inc. chief was also quoted as saying that the publisher was testing a number of titles and hoped to go with two early next year. Among her favoured niches, she highlighted women's lifestyle, "lads", music and humour.

It is difficult to predict whether the new launches will set the market on fire - especially in this age of the Internet and mushrooming of TV channels.

Meanwhile, the adage report says that broadcasters have got a good response. There are reports that CBS, Fox, Walt Disney Co.'s ABC and General Electric Co.'s NBC sold more than 80 per cent of their inventory. Some major cable networks such as Vivendi Universal's USA Cable are 70 per cent sold.

But others are holding back in the hopes of filling the scatter shortfall anticipated at the broadcast networks. AOL Time Warner's TNT and TBS are about 40 per cent sold. Discovery Networks has inked about 50 per cent of its upfront deals. Hearst Corp. and Walt Disney Co.'s Lifetime has 44 per cent of its inventory sold.

Projections are that cable networks will ink deals with CPM increases of eight per cent to 11 per cent, depending on the network. Last year, cable garnered $4.4. million in upfront spending.

An adage report says that senior magazine executives were puzzled by marketers flocking to TV. TV audiences continue to decrease and marketers seem to disregard that, some of them said under conditions of anonymity.

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