Locked & loaded, ready for auction

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TV's upfront has never been more complicated and at the same time so predictable. Broadcast networks are looking at another strong upfront marketplace--up an expected 7% in overall dollars to about $8.7 billion.

For the first time in years, networks have slowed the ratings erosion trend, especially in adults 18-49 rating points. That's all due to reality shows. But those shows aren't necessarily valuable to advertisers.

The cost per thousand viewers on broadcast networks could rise 7% to 12%. Somewhat weaker TV ratings performance on cable and syndication may give advertisers a way to cut costs.

To discuss the issues, Advertising Age gathered in New York a panel of top buyers and sellers: Ray Warren, managing director at Omnicom Group's OMD USA; Bill Cella, chairman of Interpublic Group of Cos.' Magna Global; Kaki Hinton, VP-advertising services, Pfizer; Jon Mandel, chief negotiating officer and co-CEO of Grey Global Group's MediaCom; Barbara "Bo" Argentino, exec VP-advertising sales for Sony Corp.'s Sony Pictures Television; and Lynn Picard, exec VP-advertising sales at Lifetime Television. An edited transcript follows.

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