Upfront 2010

CW Uses Joint TV, Online Sales to Lure Ad Money

Network Joins Fox in Wrapping Up Upfront Deals; CBS, NBC, ABC Still Haggling

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The CW network has wrapped up its upfront sales, using a new way of packaging ad time across TV and the web to secure more money from advertisers for its coming fall season. The network joins News Corp.'s Fox in completing negotiations for the annual market, during which the big broadcast networks try to sell the bulk of their ad inventory for the coming year.

CW's 'Vampire Diaries'
CW's 'Vampire Diaries' Credit: Bob Mahoney/The CW
CW saw sales volume increase approximately 20% from last year, to a total between $370 million and $404 million, according to Advertising Age estimates. CW sold between $308 million and $337 million at last year's upfront, according to Ad Age estimates. Advertisers seemed willing to pay price increases this year of approximately 7.5% in the cost of reaching 1,000 viewers, a unit known as a CPM that is common in these types of negotiations. CW sold more inventory than last year, when it only made approximately 65% of its ad time available for purchase.

The "vast majority" of CW advertisers "bought both on-air and full-episode streaming online," Rob Tuck, exec VP for network sales at CW, said in a statement. The network saw "year-to-year growth in all key categories, including health and beauty, retail, wireless and autos, both domestic and foreign," he said.

Strategy to protect TV ratings
CW won't start streaming new episodes in online streams until 75 hours after they aired on traditional TV, a policy intended to help the network bolster its so-called commercial ratings or "C3," the industry term for viewers who watch a show within three days of its debut and don't skip the commercials. CW's new technique involves use of online-impressions data from DoubleClick as well as Nielsen VideoCensus data to give advertisers a sense of how its shows are watched online.

The CW had a difficult time in 2009, when ad revenue fell a whopping 25.2% to approximately $590.5 million in 2009 from $789.5 million in 2008, according to Kantar Media. The network gave up its Sunday-night programming in late 2008. This year marks the first season the network promises original programming every weeknight in prime time.

Like Fox, which has also now wrapped up its upfront sales, CW has fewer hours to sell than ABC, CBS and NBC. Those three networks have not made as much progress this week as they push for hardier CPM increases than buyers said they expected. Buyers said ABC and CBS are pushing for CPM increases in the low double-digit-percentage range. Fox and CW sold ad time at percentage increases in the high single digits.

Fox secured ad commitments for the fall valued between $1.8 billion and $1.9 billion, according to estimates from ad buyers, with CPM increases coming in between 8% and 9%. A person familiar with the situation said Fox sold approximately 80% of its inventory as part of the upfront. Last year, all the networks held more ad time in reserve to sell as "scatter," or ad time purchased much closer to the time it airs, betting -- correctly, as it turned out -- that they would get better prices later as economy improved.