'Survivor' stays alive in upfront

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The TV ad marketplace may be sluggish, but "Survivor" continues to be a sales phenomenon for Viacom's CBS, which is nearing deals that could reap $200 million for the next two installments of the series. The network has re-upped most principal sponsors of "Survivor 2: The Australian Outback" for the next two versions of the show for an estimated $20 to $24 million apiece, according to those familiar with the situation.

Most of the nine sponsors are returning, including Reebok International, Dr. Scholl's, Anheuser-Busch, Visa North America, PepsiCo's Mountain Dew and Doritos, and Cingular Wireless. "We have been active on our renewals with Survivor," said Dan Rank, director of Omnicom Group's OMD USA, which represents Visa, Mountain Dew, Doritos and Cingular.

Two other "Survivor 2" sponsors remain. General Motors Corp., which used "Survivor" to pitch the Pontiac Aztek, is still in talks. According to several media executives, Target Stores is not renewing.

"Even clients who are cutting back may still have a `Survivor' budget because it's succeeded," said one person familiar with the deals. But that budget may not be a lot larger than last year's. According the person familiar with the situation, prices for "Survivor 3" and "Survivor 4" are up only slightly.

Another property selling well is ABC Sports' "Bowl Championship Series," the end of the year series that determines the college football champion. The series is about 75% sold out for the 2002 bowl games, despite a slight price hike.

Interpublic Group of Cos.' Universal McCann, meanwhile, is on the verge of an upfront deal with Viacom's MTV Networks, according to media executives. Because of this slowness of this year's market, MTV is combining sales of its prized "Video Music Awards" and "MTV Movie Awards" in its upfront buys.

"MTV Movie Awards" was priced at $300,000 per 30 seconds, which includes a number of repeats for the show. But advertisers are also forced to spend another $1 million in other MTV programming to complete the deal. For the "Video Music Awards" pricing has been at $400,000 a spot, with advertisers forced to buy another $2 million in other inventory.

Overall, the upfront market continued to find its legs last week. Grey Global Group's MediaCom has begun to register budgets with some TV networks, as did Bcom3 Group's Starcom MediaVest Group, Chicago.

Zenith Media, jointly owned by Cordiant Communications Group and Publicis Groupe, was said to have pooled money for several clients and approached NBC, offering an increase in total ad dollars in exchange for rollbacks in pricing. NBC balked; Zenith walked away. Neither party would comment.

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