Cable networks see CPMs, sales soar in upfront

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Following on the heels of the strongest upfront sales for broadcast TV in years, cable networks are crowing about double-digit cost-per-thousand increases themselves.

At the low end of the estimates, cable network executives were predicting a 25% increase in cable ad spending, to $3.5 billion, up from $2.8 billion. At the high end, estimates were running at $3.8 billion, up about 36%.

A spokesperson for Turner Broadcast Sales said it was up in dollar volume about 30% from last year, and predicted cable overall would be up that same amount, which would mean about $3.6 billion.

Turner gets about 20% of all national cable ad dollars.


"The most surprising thing seems to be that CPM increases seem to be holding," said one frustrated agency buyer. "As least it's not as harried as the broadcast upfront."

AT&T Corp., via Media Edge, New York, was said by network executives to be particularly unhappy with the CPM increases.

Paramount Pictures, handled by MediaVest, New York, was "seriously considering freezing out one of the big cable networks," said one seller. He declined to identify the network.

For cable, the upfront is moving much faster than usual. A number of networks had done the majority of their deals by the end of last week.

In the past, a number of rival cable network executives have been critical of both the Turner entertainment networks--TBS and TNT--and USA Network, saying those networks had sacrificed CPM gains for share increases. This year the grousing has all but disappeared.


"As one who has been hypercritical of Turner and USA in the past, this year I must say I think they've held the market up," said one rival sales executive.

Healthy spenders on cable are said to be Sprint Corp. in telecommunications and Toyota Motor Sales USA and other importers in autos, as well as a number of computer, software and Internet players, including Cisco Systems, e-trade and Gateway.

"Lots of the smaller dot-coms, who find broadcast network too expensive, were coming into cable," one seller observed.

America Online, in buys from Western Initiative Media Worldwide, West Hollywood, Calif., switched its demographic emphasis this year, buying primarily 18-to-34 and 12-to-17 age groups instead of the slightly older demo it targeted in cable last year, sellers said.

Copyright June 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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