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ABC Asking Five Times the Normal Price
For Ads on Lewinsky

Associated Press
NEW YORK — 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 of 20/20.

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 Briscoe said.

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 overpriced.

"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 available audience.

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, Monica's Story.

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