CBS Winding Up Upfront Sales With $2.4 Billion

ABC Expected to Finish With $2.2 Billion

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- CBS is winding up its upfront sales and is expected to finish with $2.4 billion in ad commitments for next season. That figure is slightly below last year's final upfront tally, which was $2.5 billion, though CBS is continuing to negotiate.

Last year CBS caused controversy with its final numbers, and some reports suggested the network had written only $2.4 billion in commitments. Whatever the case, CBS is likely to have the biggest upfront haul of all the broadcast networks for the second year in a row. ABC is expected to come in around $2.2 billion, according to industry estimates.

If ABC does end up with $2.2 billion, that would make the final upfront total $8.95 billion; Fox has taken in $1.8 billion, NBC logged $1.9 billion and the CW nabbed $650 million.

ABC only network left
CBS, now the centerpiece of newly created CBS Corp., is concluding deals before sales management heads out for the July 4 vacation, leaving ABC the final broadcast network to finish business. ABC was the first to complete deals last year.

Speaking last week at a PricewaterhouseCoopers media event, CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves said the upfront was successful because three of the four big networks won cost-per-thousand increases. (Jo Ann Ross, CBS president-network sales, declined to comment today.)

Still, the CPM increases were somewhat smaller than what was earned in last year's upfront, when ABC won rate hikes of between 4%-6%. NBC this year accepted rate rollbacks of between 5%-6%. CBS commanded rates similar to last year, with CPM increases of up to 2%. A number of agencies said CBS even did deals at below last year's rates to grab volume, though CBS has denied that.

Volume key this year
One major agency buyer said "volume was a huge key point" in this year's upfront. The small CPM increases demonstrated how weak demand was this year, said the buyer, who also expects the scatter market to be weak this coming season. "I don't trust the numbers anymore. Any inflation was modest at best. Last year every single network reported the money was up; the only one who truly wrote more money was ABC. They had a great year. This year the money is down a handful of percentage points."
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