ABC Takes Hit As Network Sales Wrap

Jun 26, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Last week-five weeks after season schedules were announced in New York-buyers were largely finished with their negotiations with the broadcasters.

ABC, expected to be the leader, appeared to take a hit in terms of prices with almost all of its deals done by the end of the week. After holding out for better deals, ABC ended up getting increases of only 2 percent, buyers said, compared to the 3 percent to 4 percent it was getting in some early deals and the 4 percent to 6 percent gains it got last year.

One buyer said that ABC President for Sales and Marketing Mike Shaw, after brilliantly calling the market last year, missed the mark on dollar volume and price this time around. Mr. Shaw declined to comment.

Network sources maintained that the overall broadcast network upfront likely will be down by about $300 million from the $9 billion sold last year.

While ABC held out, Fox moved quickly and finished its deals earlier this week. While Fox’s CPM increases were small, in the 2 percent to 3 percent range, it increased its sales volume by about $200 million to $1.8 billion, according to knowledgeable sources.

NBC is also close to finishing its upfront deals, posting about $1.8 billion in prime-time sales, a person familiar with the matter said. That total, which includes commercial time on its new Sunday night NFL franchise, is little changed from last year. Prices dropped in NBC’s deals by 5 percent to 7 percent, the source said.

People familiar with CBS’s upfront sales declined to say how close the network is to finishing upfront sales. One buyer said the network was getting CPM increases of up to 2 percent.

The new CW network was also substantially done with upfront sales, meeting revenue goals in a challenging market, a spokesman said. The new network did deals with more advertisers than its predecessor, The WB, which took in about $650 million last year and UPN, which recorded about $250 million. The CW registered more advertising commitments at higher prices than The WB did, the spokesman said.