ABC isn't paying for its interview with Monica Lewinsky, but its advertisers certainly are.
To buy a 30-second commercial on Wednesday night's two-hour
20/20 telecast of Barbara Walters' interview with Lewinsky, ABC
is asking advertisers for five times what they would normally pay.
ABC is building anticipation for the interview by running
"teaser" ads that show Walters throwing questions at Lewinsky but
revealing no answers.
The network has hiked the price for a half-minute commercial to
about $800,000, said executives familiar with ad sales. ABC
generally charges $160,000 for half-minute ads on regular editions
Advertisers who had bought time months ago expecting a regular
20/20 will either have to pay the new price or drop out.
Two of the nation's biggest advertisers have said they weren't
interested in hawking their products as the former White House
intern talks about her affair with President Clinton.
Procter & Gamble, whose products include Ivory soap, Tide
detergent and Crest toothpaste, normally avoids news programs
because of potentially controversial topics, spokeswoman Gretchen
Coca-Cola also is steering clear of Lewinsky. "It just doesn't
seem like something that would be right for our brands,"
spokeswoman Kari Bjorhus said.
ABC's ad sales department is targeting movie studios and
Internet companies, believing they're more willing to take a gamble
on the material attracting a big audience, said Bob Flood of DeWitt
Media, an advertising buying firm.
One analyst predicted a huge night in the ratings for ABC,
estimating that 45 percent of the nation's televisions in use that
night will be watching Lewinsky. ER, the year's top-ranked
entertainment show, has an average audience share of 31.
"People are sick of it, without a doubt, but no one has had a
chance to sit down and hear what she's had to say," said Marc
Berman of the advertising firm Seltel. "This is an event. People
are going to watch it."
But Paul Schulman, who has his own advertising buying firm,
predicts an audience share of between 25 and 30. None of his
clients have bought ads on the show, and he advises them that it's
"I think now that it's over, I'm not sure that everyone even
cares to hear from Monica," Schulman said.
In January, Fox charged advertisers a record $1.6 million to buy
30-second ads on the Super Bowl.
When Oprah Winfrey interviewed Michael Jackson in 1993, the show
drew a staggering 56 audience share, Nielsen Media Research said.
Two years later, when Jackson was interviewed by Diane Sawyer, it
had a 42 audience share.
NBC's ratings last week for its Dateline NBC interview with
Juanita Broaddrick, who accused Bill Clinton of sexually assaulting
her more than 20 years ago, were only slightly higher than a
typical episode of the newsmagazine. It drew 15 percent of the
Because ABC only owns the domestic distribution rights to the
interview, it won't be telecast on the Web, nor will the network
make a full transcript available there. Instead, ABCnews.com will
show some film clips online and show portions of the transcript,
spokeswoman Michelle Bergman said.
On Thursday and Friday, NBC's Today show will air a two-part
interview with Andrew Morton, author of the Lewinsky biography,