AS the cable channels that populate the television dial conclude their advance advertising sales, they have something to celebrate: they made much greater gains than the broadcast networks.
Preliminary figures for advance sales indicate that the cable channels will collectively sell about $8 billion in airtime to advertisers this season, up 7 to 8 percent from last year's total. By contrast, the broadcast networks sold about $9.1 billion to $9.2 billion, up about 1 percent over last season.
The shift in advertising dollars from broadcast to cable is not new, but it is particularly pronounced this year. There are several explanations, analysts say, including the fact that the most popular cable channels on their best nights, now attract nearly as many viewers as some of the less popular broadcast networks. Over all, the ratings gap, once vast, has been gradually narrowing.
While all the broadcasters, save for Fox, posted significant ratings declines in the television season that ended in May, many cable networks are setting new ratings records. The Disney Channel musical "Camp Rock," for instance, had its premiere to an audience of 8.9 million viewers Friday night, soundly defeating the broadcast networks.