NETWORKS CLOSE IN ON UPFRONT DEALS

Published on .

June 20, 2001

By Wayne Friedman and David Goetzl

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Network upfront activity has kicked into a slightly higher gear.

Many network ad executives spent a late night Tuesday working on deals, specifically at ABC. One executive noted the network could have a substantial number of deals done -- perhaps 20% of its upfront inventory. Bcom3 Group's Starcom MediaVest Group and Zenith Media, New York, which is jointly owned by Cordiant Communications Group and Publicis Groupe, have completed their deals with ABC, at single-digit-percent cost per thousand pricing decreases vs. a year ago.

NBC still on top
NBC still leads the way among the three traditional networks in terms selling the most of its upfront inventory, according to executives. The Peacock network is cutting deals at a CPM decrease of an estimated 5% to 7% compared with the 2000 upfront, people close to the process said. But at the same time the network is moving aggressively to ensure that its total dollar intake this year remains at least the same as last year.

Media buyers said NBC may be taking dollars from ABC, whose fall lineup appears weaker than its competitors. The exception here is for ABC's Monday NIght Football and possibly Who Wants to be a Millionaire, although that show has lost some of its luster due to declining ratings and a older-skewing viewership.

Good news for WB
Additionally, a rush of TV scatter business has hit the market this week, particularly at the WB, all of which has generated a fleeting uptick in the otherwise glacially moving TV ad market.

Movie media executives say a flood of summer movies has generated most of the stir -- which has made prices rise significantly compared with last year's upfront. "There seems to be a movie ad in every break on the WB," one executive said. "It's hard to get in."

Jed Petrick, chief operating officer and president of the WB, wouldn't comment on what categories were involved, but he said the week of June 11 was the WB's best scatter week in its history. He also said his network had started to ink deals for this year's upfront at an increase over a year ago.

Copyright June 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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