ABC Agrees to Deal on 'Live Only'

Changed Position After Rivals Started to Make Upfront Deals

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NEW YORK ( -- Walt Disney Co.'s ABC issued a statement today confirming the network was prepared to negotiate with agencies using the existing ratings metric of "live only," meaning it will only charge marketers for viewers who watch programs when they are aired (and not for viewers who watch later using a digital video recorder).
ABC formally steps down from its stance to negotiate using 'live-plus' ratings.
ABC formally steps down from its stance to negotiate using 'live-plus' ratings.

The issue of which metric to base this year's upfront negotiations on has held up deals. Media agencies were united in their stand that they would only pay for live viewers, while the broadcast networks wanted to charge for those viewers who watched programs either later that same day (live plus same day) or later that week (live plus seven days). But late last week, ABC began to soften its stance, offering to negotiate with buyers on "live plus same day."

Continuing 'live plus' efforts
"The ABC Television Network will offer 'live' guarantees as one of the options advertisers may consider during this year's upfront," Disney said in a statement released this morning. "While the majority of the advertising community has reached a consensus on the Nielsen DVR ratings issue, and has concluded that commercials seen during a DVR-recorded programming have no value, the ABC Television Network continues to believe strongly in the worth of the 'Live Plus' viewer, and will continue its efforts to include this audience."

ABC's decision this morning follows the news that rival networks had accepted the "live only" metric to kick-start the dealing. It is unclear which network backed down first, though CBS indicated June 2 it had taken a more agency-friendly approach. One executive said CBS has already written business. The network was not immediately available for comment. NBC offered no immediate reaction to the news, and the other Big Four network, Fox, said it had no comment.

Early this morning, one buyer said the "live plus" issue had not gone away entirely, but had simply become another deal point to be discussed alongside cancellation and expansion policies.

The decision ends a two-week stalemate that had pitted advertising agencies against broadcast networks over the issue of what to pay for viewers who watch shows but skip ads. According to Nielsen Media Research, ABC has three of the top four shows that gained the biggest lift in playback for the week of May 8. The decision by ABC to back off its position, however, only postpones the "live plus" disagreement to next year's upfront, when the networks will likely revive the debate.
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