Among the best decisions cable ever made was luring a savvy radio ad man who became a dogged proponent for local cable ad sales. By Shirley Brady The theme of the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau’s conference earlier this month was "Tomorrow Today." But let’s not forget yesterday. That cable ad sales are projected to near $24 billion this year is due in great part to CAB founder Robert H. Alter, who died in March, aged 77. In 1981 the board of the Cable Telecommunications Association for Marketing provided the seed money for CAB and lured Alter from the Radio Advertising Bureau to run it. The goal: Start a separate trade organization to promote advertising on national networks and local cable systems. "Many of the cable networks were just starting to develop and we wanted to have a minute or two per hour for local sale on each service," CTAM founder Greg Liptak recalls. "Local newspapers, broadcast television and radio said that cable viewing was minimal and worthless to local advertisers…We all agreed that radio had to fight for advertising dollars against broadcast television—and therefore Bob would be a leader who had experience in this underdog position." Alter quickly hired salespeople to help pitch a skeptical Madison Avenue on cable advertising, plus researchers to prove that cable had loyal viewers. Also facing skeptics in cable’s ranks, he organized "Cable Days" seminars and the first annual local advertising conference in December 1981 to promote the burgeoning revenue stream. With just three interconnected cable markets in 1981 (the S.F. Bay Area, Tulsa, Okla., and Naples, Fla.), critics argued that cable earned less than 1% of its revenue from ad sales and the bulk from the subscriber—so why even bother? Thankfully, Alter refused to take no for an answer, and by 1985 virtually every cable network, operator and vendor was a CAB member. "In 1981, there was roughly $124 million in cable ad revenue—in 1985, there was more than $800 million," says Jim Boyle, who ran CAB member relations in the early days. "In 2005, there was more than $21 billion in cable ad revenue." Those numbers speak volumes—but they don’t tell the full story of the man Liptak calls cable advertising’s "consummate salesman." Please click HERE for tributes to Bob Alter from his former CAB colleagues.

The Daily

Subscribe

Advertisers in the Water at ‘Shark Week’

Discovery’s “Shark Week” announced its advertising partners supporting this year’s week-long event slate.

Read the Full Issue
The Skinny is delivered on Tuesday and focuses on the cable profession. You'll stay in the know on the headlines, topics and special issues you value most. Sign Up

Calendar

Jul 16
Diversity List – 2021 Nominations Due: July 16, 2021
Sep 10
Most Powerful Women – 2021 Nominations Due: Sept 10, 2021
Dec 7
Most Powerful Women CelebrationSave the Date!
Full Calendar

Jobs

Seeking an INDUSTRY JOB?
VIEW JOBS

Hiring? In conjunction with our sister brand, Cynopsis, we are offering hiring managers a deep pool of media-savvy, skilled candidates at a range of experience levels and sectors, The result will be an even more robust industry job board, to help both employers and job seekers.

Contact John@cynopsis.com for more information.