"This upfront will be stronger than people expect," said Zucker, president/CEO of NBC Universal, speaking at the Wall Street Journal's All Things D conference in Carlsbad, Calif.
Concerning the advertising business, Zucker says: "We have bottomed out." Zucker added that overall TV usage and the TV advertising business will improve, although he didn't offer details.
A wide range of media analysts are expecting that overall upfront dollars will be off anywhere from 5% to 10% for all broadcast networks, and possibly 3% less for cable networks. Broadcast networks are expected to sink to an overall $7.5 billion take, with cable hovering around the $7.0 billion level, according to some estimates.
Looking at the key cost-per-thousand viewer prices (CPMs), media analysts are expecting pricing rollbacks of 3% to 7% for all TV networks versus CPMs of a year ago.
But Zucker says "local TV is a slightly different story. It is under much more pressure in the same way all local [media] businesses are." Local TV ad sales are projected to sink 20% in overall revenue versus a year ago, according to many estimates.
In previous interviews, Zucker stressed that the company's overall business -- especially its cable networks -- more than makes up for the problems at the NBC Television Network.
Still, he says: "We want to be in first place because it's an important message to send. There is a perception if you have the best programs, you'll finish in first. We like to be most-watched network -- but we don't have to be."