CBS Sees Strong Demand for Scatter in Fourth Quarter

At UBS Media Week: CEO Moonves Bullish on 2010 Upfront Ad-Selling Period

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- After slogging through several quarters with diminished visibility on ad spending, CBS CEO Leslie Moonves said today at the UBS Media conference that his company was now experiencing outsize demand for advertising.

Les Moonves
Les Moonves Credit: CBS
"Our scatter market is the fourth quarter is plus 25% up from the upfront," he said, speaking about pricing. "We haven't seen numbers like that in years."

While Mr. Moonves repeatedly said he wished to avoid appearing overly "exuberant," he noted that demand for advertising has been so intense that the CBS broadcast network has made some time previously reserved for running promos for its shows available to ad-sales staff to sell to marketers. Mr. Moonves said CBS had given three prime-time promo slots and two late-night promo slots to advertisers, though it was not immediately clear whether he meant on a regular or nightly basis, or as part of a one-off maneuver.

"Over and over, we have heard from our ad agencies that they wish they had urged their clients to buy at the upfront," he said.

In a further sign of ad-spending recovery, Mr. Moonves said CBS had only a handful of slots available in the Super Bowl; a person familiar with the situation suggested CBS had only five 30-second ad berths available, and that U.S. automakers would once again not be advertising in the big game, set for broadcast on Feb. 2.

Mr. Moonves used the financial wind at his company's back to suggest marketers would be willing to commit substantially more dollars in the 2010 upfront market. Already, he said, the price for ad time is up 25%, which should spur advertisers to put more money down in advance for TV time rather than suffer higher prices later on down the road in the so-called scatter market. He suggested CBS had seen an extra $100 million in volume come in for fourth-quarter advertising.

Despite the cheer, CBS has challenges. Mr. Moonves said he expected the company to "take a hit" financially when "The Oprah Winfrey Show," which CBS distributes, leaves the air next year. Talk-show host Ms. Winfrey has already said she intends to stop doing the program in favor of moving to run a cable network operated by Discovery Communications. While CBS isn't happy Ms. Winfrey is leaving, Mr. Moonves said other programming opportunities may arise, including from local-news operations housed at CBS stations and affiliates.

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