Estonia's public television channel, ETV, will set a precedent in Estonian advertising history this month by selling ad time for the Eurovision Song Contest 2002 at an online auction.
Rivo Saarna, advertising director of ETV, which is the chief organizer of next month's contest, said that 665 seconds of advertising time, each second with a starting price of 650 kroons ($37), will be on sale at osta.ee, an online auction site, from April 22 to 26.
Only ad agencies that have signed preliminary contracts with ETV will be allowed to bid.
The price set is very attractive for advertisers, said Saarna.
"Taking into account the huge mass of viewers, the initial price is extremely favorable," said Saarna.
ETV forecasts that up to one half of Estonia's population will watch the May 25 contest. Saarna said the minimum number of viewers in Estonia alone would be 550,000.
"Naturally we are waiting for the (minimum) price to rise," said Saarna.
He said the European Broadcasting Union, which supervises the contest's organization, has restricted the number of commercials.
"Because of that, we think it is correct to let the market define the price," said Saarna.
According to rules set by the European Broadcasting Union, two- to eight-minute-long commercial blocks can be sold during the song contest's broadcast. Another five minutes of advertisements will run before the show.
"That makes 900 seconds, and showing sponsors' logos and ads takes 235 seconds of that," explained Saarna.
A commercial shown on ETV at prime time Saturday evenings, the same time slot as the Eurovision contest, costs from 600 kroons to 1,260 kroons per second.
Monika Karema, managing director of Osta.ee, the largest online auction in Estonia, is confident the minimum price will increase.
"We have reasons to hope for that because the starting price is much lower than the usual prime-time price," said Karema.
The auction will be unlike others hosted by osta.ee in that it will be open to a predetermined number of bidders.
"The Eurovision ad time auction will be a closed one, and our regular users will not even see it from the Web site," said Karema. "Only ad agencies that have agreements with ETV and have presented their initial bids will have the access to the restricted auction environment."
Karema declined to comment on osta.ee's commission.
Osta.ee usually charges 10 percent to 25 percent of the final bid price.
Though the online sale is a first for Estonia, it's currently in use elsewhere in Europe.
The Austrian public broadcasting channel, ORF, currently sells commercial time online for its version of the hit show "Big Brother."