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Volume 24 No. 154
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     ESPN stopped selling inventory for a few days two weeks ago,
a move "indicative of the most robust sports marketplace in
recent years."  Jack Bonanni, Senior VP/Ad Sales at ESPN, said
the "flow of business was more than we could handle."  Bonanni
noted the return of the NHL had a "major impact" on the network's
schedule, and that "complicated matters."  One ad exec said ESPN
"doesn't have a state-of-the-art system to manage their
inventory" and that led to a hiatus to account for sale
inventory.  Other media buyers speculated the network was
"reassessing" their pricing.  But Bonanni insists the
interruption was strictly due to a "re-inventorying" process that
has been done in the past.  ESPN's sales "underscores the
strength of the sports TV marketplace these days -- from the
seller's perspective."  Ad time on all sports on broadcasts and
cable outlets is "moving briskly," if not sold out, and spending
on sports TV is up "significantly for numerous categories,"
including automotive, computer, and telecommunications
(Brockington & Reynolds, COWLES BUSINESS/INSIDE MEDIA, 2/16).