The Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau said that by mid-June, basic cable networks had sold a record $1.6 billion in commercial time for the 1995-96 TV season, up 45% from last year's $1.1 billion total upfront sales.
"Cable for the first time is equal at the table with broadcast networks, and buyers are using cable as a direct participant and option as they consider upfront investments. That is a big change," said CAB President-CEO Joe Ostrow.
The four broadcast networks sold a record $5.5 billion in prime-time commercial inventory in the upfront market, up 25% from last year.
While the broadcast upfront is complete, cable upfront sales are still under way and could top $2 billion this year, Mr. Ostrow said.
"I'm aware of several hundred million of dollars in advertising plans that are still working," he said. "It's not just another $50 million that's out there. This will drive the numbers higher."
Generally, he said a healthy economy and advertisers that paid higher prices by not buying early last year are behind the increased upfront spending.
But he also said cable's share of ad spending is up because advertisers have recognized basic cable's gains in audience and production of original programming.
Basic cable networks collectively have committed more than $3 billion to producing new programming next season, Mr. Ostrow said.
Mr. Walley is Electronic Media's New York bureau chief.