The TV Upfront Ad Market

So where's the TV upfront advertising market this morning?

Lukewarm? Warming?

ABC supposedly did some early deals last week to, in theory, kick off the upfront advertising sales market - a market that is poised to be rather feeble. Speculation centers around a deal or two or three or perhaps 17 the network had with media agency OMD - all because ABC has the Super Bowl in 2006, a piece of the 2005-2006 broadcast selling season.

ABC is the theoretical leader in the market because of its remarkable 17 percent gain in adults 18 to 49 this season, the largest gain in decades by any network. With those fruits of labor, it is attempting to get the highest price hike. That, according to media buyers, would be a 6 percent increase in their cost-per-thousand viewers [CPM] price. Every other network would fall under this number.

Typically, it's the weakest player - in this case NBC - who would be most desperate to pursue an early upfront deal, which, for most media buyers, is another name for cutting your price and going for the largest share of advertising dollars in the market.

Hmmm... didn't ABC, just a few short years ago, do an early $1 billion deal with OMD? Wasn't that for share of market? Sure seemed that way.

It's doubtful the network would go into that warm water pool this year. If, in fact, ABC did a significant deal with any agency, word would get out and a chain reaction would start. In this market, the network would need to quickly move through the rest of the upfront process, all in the hopes of grabbing some fast money.

But the market isn't ready. Late last week even the cable networks were having trouble nailing down upfront deals. Media agency executives will tell journalists that in markets like this their advertisers' clients have all the time in the world to buy any programming. We'll take them at their word.

Perhaps the most interesting position is that of NBC. The network is making the case that the four-network ratings race has never been closer - that all four are virtually at parity with each other. With that thinking in mind, advertisers will have an easier time of it, since there is a lot of similarly rated programming to buy.

So where's the upfront advertising market this morning? Unlike the morning commute, there's not much rush.

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