With Writers and Producers Talking, Buyers Have Hope

Signs Suggest a Deal Could Be in Place by Early January

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Media buyers are typically a surly bunch, but some of them are beginning to feel -- of all things -- optimistic. Orders for additional episodes of new programs on ABC and NBC, combined with the start of new talks in the ongoing writers strike have given some the sense that the TV business could be back to semi-normal by mid-January.
ABC has ordered a full season of 'Dirty Sexy Money.'
ABC has ordered a full season of 'Dirty Sexy Money.' Credit: ABC/Scott Garfield

"The networks are still hopeful that the talks will lead to an end of the strike. They are thinking early January or mid-January," said Billie Gold, VP-associate director of programming services at Aegis Group's Carat USA. "Nobody knows, but people seem to be more hopeful than they were."

Nets ordering shows
Fueling this feeling are recent announcements by ABC and NBC that they have ordered new episodes of some of their new programs. ABC has ordered a full season of "Dirty Sexy Money" and has begun advertising "Lost," slated to begin a new season next year, through commercials with Verizon Wireless. NBC said late Monday it would pick up "Life" and "Chuck" for nine episodes each, or the balance of the 2007-08 season.

"It does seem like the networks are moving forward," Ms. Gold said.

And with good reason: Media buyers have begun to indicate that some clients could start asking for their ad dollars back as soon as early to mid-January, the next time advertisers have options to redeploy ad money for the second quarter they committed during the upfront market.

Thanks to the continuing erosion of live TV viewing and the increased penetration of DVRs, networks have seen ratings decline. That means they have to run more of their clients' ads to meet ratings guarantees they may have promised earlier, which leads to an extremely tight TV-ad market. Some networks are carrying old make-good promises forward in order to get advertisers the ratings they promised they would deliver. Without fresh episodes of audience favorites, the situation could worsen as TV buyers and sellers move toward the upfront market for the 2008-09 season.

Both sides discussed general topics on Monday, and were slated to move on to issues surrounding payment for appearance of work on emerging media venues Tuesday, according to one media buyer who is keeping up on the talks. The talks hinge on reconciling differences over payments to writers on sales of DVDs and compensation for writers when their work appears in digital media. This buyer said people are still waiting to hear what progress has been made on the digital media issues.

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