CBS CEO ANTICIPATES UPFRONT BONANZA

Predicts Double-Digit TV Ad Rate Increases

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- CBS Chairman-CEO Leslie Moonves was bullish at a press breakfast yesterday at CBS headquarters here, predicting the Viacom-owned network will bring
Photo: AP
CBS chief Leslie Moonves sees a lot to smile about in the coming upfront season.
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in double-digit rate increases for advertising in the 2004 upfront.

However, most media financial analysts are forecasting mid- to high single-digit increases at best.

'Money will shift'
"CBS will do well," said Mr. Moonves. "We will take money from other players, especially on Thursday night. Yes, [NBC's] The Apprentice is strong ... but a lot of money will shift to CBS. Everyone else has aging programming. Overall, we are solid, and we are getting younger."

Mr. Moonves -- flanked by Jo Ann Ross, the network's sales president; and David Poltrack, executive vice president of research and planning -- was referring to the age of CBS' core audience. The network has historically excelled among viewers aged 25 to 54, while NBC has consistently attracted viewers 18 to 49, considered by advertisers to be the most free-spending age group, and therefore the most highly coveted consumers.

"The 18-to-49 charts should be pushed aside," said Mr. Moonves.

Mr. Poltrack insisted audiences in the 25 to 54 demographic are the biggest spenders. "The fact is if you are selling a product where income is an important variable, the fact that the person has a lot of money is what you are after, not their age," Mr. Poltrack said. "Most of the people 18-49 in the Nielsen Media Research sample are dependent young adults who are living with their parents. The big money in this country is concentrated in the 35 to 54 demographic."

NUDG meeting
Ms. Ross, meanwhile, told the group that CBS has been invited by the Association of National Advertisers to participate in the first meeting of the Network Upfront Discussion Group (dubbed "NUDG") a committee of advertisers, agencies and media executives that will discuss ways to change the way the upfront is conducted. Earlier this year, the ANA released a study that indicated significant advertiser frustration with the high prices they are paying for broadcast TV advertising in the upfront market.

"There are certain things about the upfront that are antiquated," Mr. Moonves admitted. "So we want to participate, listen and talk about what can be done better. The one thing we don't think is that just because you have the Olympics, the schedules should be changed."

Mr. Moonves was referring to NBC decision to move the starting date of its prime-time fall TV season from September to August, to follow on the heels of its Olympics coverage.

Upfront closing bell
He also said he was very sympathetic with one of the issues that ANA members have raised -- instituting a daily closing bell to mark the end of negotiations between ad buyers and sellers.

"I have always thought, since the day I joined the network, I said, 'Why are you people here at 3 o'clock in the morning when you spoke to that [buyer] at 8 o'clock at night and you can talk to him again at 8 o'clock in the morning?' That is a dumb situation," he said. He added, "Even if there is a closing bell, people will cheat. There will be deals made after hours and all that."

CBS holds its upfront presentation, when it unveils its fall TV programming, May 19.

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