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(July 24, 2001) -- Though CBS had a seemingly rough upfront, CBS President-CEO Les Moonves said the network gained major ground on its competitors in advertising pricing.

Mr. Moonves said for the adults 18 to 49 demographic, the network is "within a dollar of NBC's CPMs [cost per thousands viewers]."

"Our strategy was certainly different than NBC -- they went earlier, and they went often," he said. "We sold our inventory to better buyers. Our CPMs were up."

CBS made an early decision not sell right away in the upfront, in order to wait for better pricing. As a result, CBS sold about 65% to 67% of its targeted upfront inventory, which was down from 80% a year ago.

But CBS executives said overall it pulled in approximately $1.4 billion in upfront revenue -- down only about $100 million from a year before. This, they say, was far less of a drop than other networks.

CBS hopes the future will improve -- especially because it has more inventory to sell this season. "We feel there will be scatter money available," said Mr. Moonves. "Obviously we would all like the economy to be better."

Other network and advertising executives counter that CBS did not see overall gains in CPMs. However, they said, CBS did make gains against NBC and ABC in closing the CPM gap on adults 18 to 49.

For instance, ad executives say CBS inked 2% to 3% decreases overall, while ABC and NBC dipped further, doing deals at 6% to 9%. One competing network executive said CBS is getting an average $16 on the adult 18to 49 CPM vs. ABC and NBC, which can get as high as $22 for the same demographic. -- Wayne Friedman

Copyright July 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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