Upfront Deals In Motion, Network Haul Could Hit $9.2B


Two networks -- Fox and ABC -- were interested in moving the upfront market late this week, according to media-buying executives. Many media agencies still don't have budgets from clients yet -- thinking that most of the upfront market will move after the Memorial Day holiday. 

The major networks have been putting in long nights over the last several days to firm up their pricing. Media buyers say Fox is initially asking 14% increases on the cost-per-thousand viewers. That comes with the understanding of Fox's goal: to get at least 11% to 12% closing price increases.

ESPN is also actively pursuing deals for NFL and college football. But in reference to earlier reports, media buyers say many of these deals -- especially the NFL -- were for the continuation of multi-year agreements that marketers have with the networks.



ABC and Fox reps did not comment.

The current price expectation, according to one media agency, is that each of the major networks will probably get one or two percentage-point increases over the gains of a year ago. Last year, according to buyers, ABC and Fox grabbed 7% to 8% price hikes, NBC a 6% gain, and CBS a 9% improvement.

CBS has been public about its push -- a 12% to 15% price growth on the CPMs. Considering the current sky-high scatter market -- which has seen 30% to 40% price hikes -- some feel that CBS and other networks misjudged the strength of last year's upfront market and could have grabbed bigger prices for network shows.

According to another media-buying executive, Fox may have been estimating an improvement in the number of 18-49 rating points -- rare for almost any broadcast network these days -- all due to "The X Factor" coming online this fall. The highly touted "American Idol"-like show could give a serious ratings boost for the network in the fall -- a place where Fox has had some ratings trouble over the past few seasons.

Overall, a variety of estimates are that the entire prime-time network upfront revenue for the broadcast networks could rise around 5% to 10%: $9.2 billion to $9.3 billion. Cable could climb more -- some 15% to 17%, perhaps equaling the broadcast upfront prime-time revenue haul.

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