Upfront learns its ABCs to the tune of $8.3 bil

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The Upfront market soared to $8.3 billion in prime-time advertising sales last week, surpassing even the most aggressive projections by at least $600 million.

And nearly one-eighth of the total--a record $1.4 billion--is being raked in by a single show, ABC's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."

Overwhelming demand for juggernaut "Millionaire" made ABC the big winner in the upfront and contributed to a 14% increase from last year's $7 billion.

"It's the upside of optimistic," said Jon Nesvig, president of ad-vertising sales for Fox Broadcasting Co.

BIGGEST NETWORKS ADD $900 MIL

ABC posted more than $2.3 billion in sales, $600 million more than last year's upfront, according to several agency and network advertising executives. Just behind was NBC, which wrote $2.25 billion in business, up about $100 million from last year. CBS came in third at $1.7 billion, a $200 million improvement.

Fox was next at $1.3 billion, $200 million higher, while the WB was flat at about $450 million. United Paramount Network grabbed $175 million, $30 million more than a year ago.

Media buyers and sellers had underestimated the strength of the market.

"We were predicting $7.6 billion," said Tim Spengler, exec VP-director of national broadcast for Initiative Media North America, Los Angeles.

"Demand was greater than expected," echoed a veteran executive at a leading ad agency.

Major categories--automotive, financial, pharmaceutical and retail--posted budget increases of 20%.

Copyright May 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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