Talk, But Not Much Action As Upfront Gets Underway

Ad sales people for the major networks and media buyers are acting like wary teens being quizzed by their parents about their respective first dates: nothing's happening.

Nevertheless, it is clear that ABC has moved to try to cut deals for the Super Bowl, which is moving from Fox next year. Several sources said that OMD has cut deals with ABC for Pepsi's ads to appear in the Super Bowl. OMD representatives declined to comment. Another rumor making the media buyer rounds was that Anheuser-Busch media representatives were also close to finishing a deal on Monday with ABC for the Super Bowl.

In the meantime, the perceived strength of broadcast versus cable has led buyers to hold off on deals until broadcast is wrapped up.

"Last year, networks went first, and of the networks, ABC went first then too," said one veteran media buyer. "People are just talking right now, seeing what the prices are and making comparisons. ABC is smart to move quickly, because of the success they've had with their schedule this past year. Plus, now they have the Super Bowl."

Another media buyer who said that "we're just having discussions right now with ABC and the other networks" said only that "there might be a few deals here and there, but for the most part, it's the calm before the storm and no one's staying until 3 a.m. yet. The talks are about CPMs and whether the prices the networks are starting with are close to what we've been anticipating and then going back to the networks. Certainly no one thinks that NBC is going to get any increases. But there's always that game of chicken between sellers and buyers."

While no one anticipates that the negotiations will be over in a matter of days, one reason that negotiations might be dragged out is the increasing complexity of ad deals.

"In general, you're not just buying spots anymore," said one national broadcast director. "You're talking about branded integration and product placement," he added, "and that takes a lot more time to get sorted. We haven't done any deals yet, and I haven't heard of any other agencies doing any deals yet. Right now, all we're doing is talking."

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