Road to the Upfront: A&E Networks

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Upfront host: The presentation has already taken place with A&E Networks' newly appointed president Abbe Raven hosting.

Other side of the table: Mel Berning, A&E's exec VP-advertising sales

Performance in 18-49s: Ratings at A&E are up 32% to 0.45 and at History they remained flat at 0.44.

Performance in total viewers: A&E is up 2% to 1.12 million and History is flat at 1.13 million.

Best returning shows: Driving A&E's ratings growth are its real life shows: "Dog the Bounty Hunter" and "Growing up Gotti." The History Channel returns stalwarts "Modern Marvels" and "Undersea Detective."

New shows: A&E has picked up the off-network rights to "24" and "CSI: Miami." Its record $2.5 million-an-episode pickup of "The Sopranos" won't air until 2006. History Channel launches eight new series and nine marquee events, which are some of the network's highest-rated programming: January's "The French Revolution," for example, snared 2.9 million viewers.

Weakest areas: A&E, which used to be known for delivering an upscale, affluent audience, has slipped to the 36th-ranked cable net, with an upscale index below the population average, according to a recent Magna Global study. Of course, the lineup of reality shows has driven 18 consecutive months of growth and dropped the median age 10 years, which Mr. Berning says has opened up new ad categories: beverage, wireless, telecom, retail, movie and DVD.

Most successful product placement/sponsorship: A deal with Publicis Groupe's Starcom USA for the U.S. Army created vignettes featuring real-life soldier stories within the rebroadcast of History Channel's "Band of Brothers." While Southwest Airlines' integration into A&E's "Airline" wasn't paid for, the airline has reaped multiple benefits from the integration, including a 10% spike in online bookings the night of new episodes.

Audience median age: 49

Last year's CPM increase: 7% to 9%

Last year's upfront haul: up 17% to 20%

Buyer's verdict: "They've put on a bunch of reality shows because I guess that's what the public wants," said Gary Carr, senior VP-director of broadcast, TargetCast, New York. "It used to be an upscale premium network, now it's thought of as a more broad-based network. They still have some good properties but the things that are boosting ratings-`Growing Up Gotti,' `Dog'-there are a lot of people who don't want to be associated with those things."

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