Upfront 2010

Keeping Score of the Upfront

Our Guide for What to Expect From Broadcast in 2010

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- You can't tell how the players are doing without a scorecard, so even though most analysts, TV executives and even ad buyers acknowledge this year's upfront market will be robust, we're giving you a thumbnail sketch.

Why should it be strong? Mainly because those who didn't buy in last year had to pay big bucks in scatter for inventory. Below, a few details to keep in mind about the $8 billion to $9 billion market for prime-time ad inventory on the five big broadcast networks. As with most things "upfront," the only elements that are solid are the shows you see on TV next fall and the monies reported by the TV networks' owners in their quarterly reports. Even so, we hope this helps you keep on top.

ABC
STATE OF AFFAIRS: ABC is losing "Lost." "Desperate Housewives" and "Brothers & Sisters" are getting older, but "Dancing with the Stars" has touched "American Idol" in the ratings stratosphere. Wednesday night comedy "Modern Family" is a favorite. "The Middle" and "Cougar Town" have room to grow, as does Monday night's "Castle." Do futuristic dramas "V" or "FlashForward" have a future next fall?

SHOWS WITH BUZZ: "No Ordinary Family," about a clan that survives a plane crash only to find each member has supernatural powers -- sort of like "Lost" meets "The Fantastic Four."

KEY EXECUTIVES: Geri Wang, president-sales and marketing, ABC Television Network

2009 REVENUE: About $5.06 billion, down 2.1% from $5.17 billion in 2008, according to Kantar Media

UPFRONT PREDICTION: $2.21 billion for prime time, compared with $1.9 billion in 2009, according to Barclays Capital


CBS
STATE OF AFFAIRS: Questions linger over fate of top comedy "Two and a Half Men," with star Charlie Sheen possibly not returning. One of the most solid lineups on the set-top box, CBS has few holes to fill. New shows "Undercover Boss," "NCIS: Los Angeles" and "The Good Wife" are reliable performers, even as "Survivor" and flagship "CSI" show signs of age.

SHOWS WITH BUZZ: CBS is considering a remake of "Hawaii Five-O" in which buyers see potential.

KEY EXECUTIVES: Jo Ann Ross, president-network sales, CBS Television Network

2009 REVENUE: About $5.99 billion, down 5.1% from about $6.3 billion in 2008, according to Kantar Media

UPFRONT PREDICTION: $2.43 billion for prime time, compared with $1.91 billion in 2009, according to Barclays Capital


FOX
STATE OF AFFAIRS: Even though it has fewer hours to sell than NBC, ABC and CBS, Fox is widely seen setting the market in this year's upfront, owing to its ability to attract young men and its status as a first stop for movie studios. And don't forget, it's airing the Super Bowl next year. That said, ratings champ "American Idol" has been showing signs of weakness this season and Simon Cowell's departure won't help. What's more, Fox is ending "24." Sci-fi drama "Fringe" has an engaged fan base, and "Bones" and "House" are solid performers.

SHOWS WITH BUZZ: "Terra Nova," a prehistoric drama that has director Steven Spielberg's name attached to it, is lighting up the interwebs.

KEY EXECUTIVES: Jon Nesvig, president-sales, Fox Broadcasting Co.

2009 REVENUE: About $4.39 billion, down 3% from about $4.52 billion in 2008, according to Kantar Media

UPFRONT PREDICTION: $1.96 billion for prime time, compared with $1.61 billion in 2009, according to Barclays Capital


NBC
STATE OF AFFAIRS: The Peacock has been cleaning its feathers after a disastrous move to put Jay Leno in prime time last fall sparked a chain of events that rippled across the prime-time schedule. NBC has already taken steps to evoke its "upscale" audience that buyers may recall from a time when the network led the pack. NBC has generated some goodwill with new 10 p.m. shows like "Parenthood."

SHOWS WITH BUZZ: "Love Bites," a humorous romance anthology, and a possible remake of "Rockford Files."

KEY EXECUTIVES: Mike Pilot, president-sales and marketing, NBC Universal; Marianne Gambelli, president-NBC Universal network ad sales; Steve Mandala, exec VP-cable ad sales, NBC Universal

2009 REVENUE: About $4.42 billion, down 17.7% from $5.37 billion in 2008, according to Kantar Media

UPFRONT PREDICTION: $1.65 billion for prime time, compared with $1.46 billion in 2009, according to Barclays Capital


CW
Credit: Jack Rowland
STATE OF AFFAIRS: The CW wins points for targeting a younger female audience, but its financial performance has been lackluster. "Melrose Place" lacks the buzz of the original, though the earnest "Life Unexpected" won some hearts.

SHOWS WITH BUZZ: A possible remake of the spy drama "La Femme Nikita."

KEY EXECUTIVES: Rob Tuck, exec VP-network sales

2009 REVENUE: About $590.5 million, down 25.2% from about $789.5 million in 2008, according to Kantar Media

UPFRONT PREDICTION: $335 million to $370 million for prime time, compared with $308 million to $337 million in 2009, according to Ad Age estimates