If the cable industry is so tech savvy, then why are programmers downright averse to the new option of selling national advertising avails on eBay?

Most cable programmers who are members of the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau say that the online auction makes sales of ad time a "commodity," and given the complexity of today’s multi-platform buys, it just doesn’t work for companies with multiple networks. That’s the party line from CAB.

So far only two cable networks have made deals with the eBay-enabled media marketplace. The first was Oxygen in early August, which was eBay’s initial cable net client. Now the fledgling channel TV One is selling time to Home Depot. Both nets are CAB members, but have broken rank. I say hurray for those trailblazers.

Oxygen’s EVP of advertising sales Mary Jeanne Cavanagh says there’s absolutely "no risk," referring to the third-quarter scatter buy it did with Intel on eBay. That’s because Oxygen set the rate and the only thing different about doing a deal on eBay is that it’s online. At deadline, Oxygen was negotiating with another unnamed advertiser. Cavanagh says Oxygen was able to "keep the integrity of the rate card," while attracting a new advertiser to the fold.

Oxygen has been a leader in ad sales initiatives since last January when it announced that it would begin upfront ad sales that month, instead of waiting until the traditional spring selling frenzy. Cavanagh says the strategy paid off, and Oxygen is trying to be more creative in its work with clients and is willing to try new selling methods, on eBay, for example.

Not all stand-alone networks, however, embrace the eBay option. Hallmark’s EVP of national ad sales Bill Abbott says his network prefers not to participate in the eBay auction. He fears that the avail inventory could be compromised and that, given the channel’s strategic mix of linear and online ad avails, eBay might actually be a disservice to clients.

That’s pretty much the mantra of all cable ad sales execs. It’s one that needs rethinking. An advertiser will notify its media-buying arm what it wants, daypart, demo, etc., and the cable network will come back with a plan and a price tag. So in essence, it’s really not a traditional eBay auction, it’s just an email function that it made available to sellers of ad time.

In other words, this is not your father’s eBay, where million dollar mansions and high-ticket autos are sold or hobbyists go to look for a bargain. It’s just a new creative offshoot of an online business now trying to crack the B2B space.

Veteran cable journalist and CableWorld columnist Marianne Paskowski can be reached at mpcable@verizon.net or 508-255-1901. She welcomes reader input, benign or malignant.

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