Broadcast, Cable Anticipate Close of Upfront Market in Next Two Weeks

CPM Rates Down Single Digits; ABC Digs in Heels at Deeper Cuts

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NEW YORK ( -- TV's upfront marketplace appears to be lurching toward its end, according to media buyers, several of whom expect the marketplace to wrap up anytime between the end of this week and sometime next week.

The buyers said business is being written at both broadcast and cable networks and in all cases involves lower CPM rates, or the cost of reaching 1,000 viewers. "Numbers are narrowing to where we think we are going to be doing business," one buyer said. "The marketplace is [down] low single to high single digits." At least one of the more significant media-buying firms is done with its upfront negotiations.

While prime-time ad time is getting locked in at CPMs down 1% to 3% at most of the broadcast networks, NBC has made deals that call for price rollbacks in the mid-to-high-single-digit percentage range, buyers said. Last week NBC and Fox were said to be further along than the other broadcast networks in finishing up sales. Fox has been trying to stay less negative than its rivals. CBS has been trying to maintain flat pricing but also has had to do negative dealing, buyers said.

Some of the networks have been willing to negotiate greater discounts in non-prime dayparts, including news, said one buyer, who said "high single" discounts were available during network evening-news broadcasts. Spokespeople at the networks declined to comment on negotiations.

ABC is holding out against deeper CPM rollbacks, according to executives familiar with the discussions. One buyer said ABC is facing pressure to lower CPMs more than 2% to 3%, but another executive familiar with discussions said the network feels those discussions aren't worth having, and the stabilizing economy and coming start of the fall TV season are on its side. ABC representatives declined to comment.

Because advertisers and buyers took their time this season, they may be rushed when it comes to putting together ad schedules for clients and presenting them for approval. In years past, these presentations were often celebratory affairs, but buyers have already warned advertisers the prolonged upfront marketplace could mean less time to consider placement of ad inventory, with rotations being tweaked later in the year if necessary.

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