Road to the upfront: MTV

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The upfront host: Judy McGrath, president, MTV Networks

The other side of the table: Larry Divney heads sales for all MTV networks; Hank Close sells MTV's music and comedy assets (MTV, MTV2, VH1, CMT and Comedy Central); Sue Danaher sells non-music properties (Nickelodeon and Nick at Nite, SpikeTV and TV Land)

Performance in 18-49s: Season-to-date viewers are up 3.4% to 1.73 million for the music group (excluding MTV2, which wasn't reported last year); the non-music group increased 21% to 1.66 million viewers, in large part due to two-year-old Spike, whose audience is up 50% over last year's.*

Performance in total viewers: Season-to-date total viewers were up 2% over last year to 2.84 million for the music and comedy group (again, excluding MTV2). The non-music group saw total viewers climb 25% to 5.13 million.*

Best returning shows: VH1 is coming off its biggest February ever and has green-lighted new seasons of "The Surreal Life" and "Celebrity Fit Club," two cornerstones of its Sunday night "celebreality" block, which is averaging 1.4 million viewers and is up 125% in 18-49s from last year. Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," which in 2004 averaged 1.2 million overall viewers, will be back-albeit without an election to fan the ratings. Perennial MTV winners include "Punk'd" and "Real World," along with tent poles "Video Music Awards" and "MTV Movie Awards." Spike's "CSI" is attracting 3 million viewers.

Notable new shows: Sean Puffy Combs will appear on MTV's "Making the Band 3" and has agreed to offer the network first rights to any projects. Nickelodeon launches "Go, Diego, Go!," a "Dora the Explorer" spin-off, and makes its 34 million subscriber digital cartoon channel Nicktoons ad-supported come August. MTV is also launching June 30 its gay channel, Logo.

Weakest areas: Although Spike's total viewers have risen 47% season to date from last year, it's been criticized for not drawing enough of the viewers it targets: males. It scores big with off-network "CSI" but has yet to offer a hit male-targeted original series. (The network isn't renewing 5 million-viewer attraction, WWE's "Raw.")

MTV audience average age: 21.6 years

Last year's CPM increase: 6%-9%

Last year's upfront haul: up 24%, industry insiders estimate it was $1 billion.

Most successful product placement/sponsorship deal: McDonald's stuck a global partnership with MTV to sponsor the network's new music showcase "Advance Warning," which airs across MTV's global properties. Meanwhile, Nickelodeon inked Holiday Inn to a two-year deal that offers myriad "Sponge Bob"-themed amenities, including menu items, pool activities and wake-up calls-along with plenty of on-air ads.

Buyer Verdicts: "MTV has a network that shapes culture-and they've been innovative in how to sell it," said Peter Gardiner, partner-chief media officer, Interpublic's Deutsch. "Last year they came up with a new concept called MTVNcast where they run ads across four or five of their networks for a rating that's as good if not better than a network prime-time show. With the cost of cable being what it is, it ends up being more efficient." Adds Harry Keeshan, exec VP-national broadcast buying, Omnicom Group's PHD, "they're under new sales management. ... Larry Divney and his team will focus a little more on accelerating the product-integration opportunities. We're finding a lot of our clients are looking to do something a little different in that traditional TV space or just outside that space."

*Season to date Sept. 20 to March 29

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