TV Upfront

USA, AMC Seeking Upfront Price Increases -- Before Negotiations Begin

Cable Networks Looking to Revise Starting Point Upwards

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Before their annual negotiations for upcoming ad time even begin in earnest, USA Network and AMC Networks are asking buyers to adjust the starting numbers upwards.

TV networks usually base upfront negotiations on the prices advertisers paid last year, but USA and AMC are saying they want to kick things off well above those levels and haggle over increases from there, according to media buyers.

With 'Modern Family' coming to the network, USA wants to start negotiations for ad times at a higher level.
With 'Modern Family' coming to the network, USA wants to start negotiations for ad times at a higher level.

For USA, the "re-pricing" of last year's deals -- anywhere from 9% to 60% depending on the base -- reflects the arrival of "Modern Family" in syndication this fall. Media buyers said USA went out about two months ago with plans pricing "Modern Family" around double the network's typical prime-time base.

The network, which is owned by NBC Universal, has a tradition of going after volume in upfront negotiations at the expense of price increases. But that's expected to change with Linda Yaccarino now at the helm. Based upon USA's upfront presentation, the network is looking to establish "Modern Family" as an asset as valuable as its original prime-time programming, making it unsurprising that they are seeking comparable pricing.

An NBC Universal spokeswoman declined to comment on the negotiations.

At AMC, executives are seeking pricing adjustments on its original series around 30%, citing the the runaway success of "The Walking Dead." The re-pricing seems more negotiable at AMC than USA, according to buyers.

An AMC spokeswoman declined to comment.

Networks typically will limit the amount of inventory available for sale in a returning hit show rather than make the whole market pay a substantial increase, according to one buyer.

"The cable networks want the advertisers to keep buying their new shows every year so they normally will limit the amount of inventory for sale to the same unit loads from the previous upfront," the buyer said, "rather than turn around and say thanks for your support last year -- here is your plus-30% increase."

A&E Networks is expected to reap some of the benefits of this, another media buyer suggested, noting that A&E's ad sales team has said it will honor last year's base.

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