VIACOM'S KARMAZIN SAYS UPFRONT DECISION PAID OFF

CBS Getting Better Prices in Scatter Market, Exec Boasts

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Viacom COO-President Mel Karmazin stood behind his controversial decision to withhold some of CBS' inventory during the spring upfront rather than sell it at a rate he felt was below market value.

"If the alternative was to do what our friends at Disney and GE did, which was [to sell] at lower prices [than the year before], that was unacceptable,"

Mr. Karmazin said today at the UBS Warburg media conference in New York. "We sold what the market was there for: 65% at higher prices."

Upfront sales
Walt Disney, which owns ABC, and General Electric Co., parent of NBC, each sold about 80% of their 2001-02 season in the upfront.

Calls to ABC and NBC were not returned by press time.

Mr. Karmazin said his decision has been vindicated because the scatter market at CBS for the current fourth quarter is bringing prices that are both higher than last year and higher than what the upfront marketplace would have brought.

Mr. Karmazin, however, declined to cite how much higher, saying after his speech: "I think I spoke."

Speaking in hyperbole?
A media buyer who has done business with CBS said Mr. Karmazin was speaking in hyperbole regarding the scatter vs. upfront comparison.

"If he's getting above upfront prices until now it's so slight it's even ridiculous to talk about," said the buyer, who spoke on the condition he not be identified.

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