The Upfront Race Nearing Homestretch

With the broadcast part of the upfront advertising market almost done, a number of fingers will be pointed this week - at NBC, cable, and syndication.

In somewhat of a traditional marketplace, with the broadcast networks going first -- ABC, CBS, Fox, UPN, and the WB - it would seem like the remaining pieces of the market could be fighting for what's left. This is especially true in a less than robust marketplace that exists.

Some cable networks have shot themselves in the foot, trying to create a semi-rush of interest with aggressive pricing the week of the broadcast network upfront programming presentations, according to some media buyers.

No buyers took the bait - especially now that media buyers increasingly consider many cable networks mature, broad reaching, less-niche networks. That means they look for share of advertising dollars rather than increasing program price. That criticism was levied against Viacom's cable networks - specifically MTV Networks - who was thought to be pushing deals with a number of agencies.



The Viacom cable networks have unfortunately grown ratings wise - which is always good and bad news in the TV advertising community. The good - that viewers are hyped up, and that network executives know what they are doing. The bad - that too many new ratings points are already flooding an ever-expanding market of cable ratings and thus can drive down program prices.

Television - it's one big two-faced Eddie Haskell of a business.

ABC put on the right face, making the right call when it asked for and got a moderate 5 to 6 percent price increase. Of course this hasn't always been their history. As one media buyer noted of the network in the past: "In bad markets, they were miserable to deal with; in strong markets, they were impossible."

ABC seems to have taken a page out of NBC's book. Even during its long reign, media buyers credit NBC as always looking to keep clients happy for the long term.

Now that NBC is in a weakened position, the question is how will media buyers respond this week? Does NBC get any credit for its previous good business relations? What about all those good-natured, medium-size cable networks looking to make a simple buck?

It might just be what Hyman Roth in "The Godfather II" said: "This is the business we have chosen."

Of course, Roth also said: "I'd give $4 million just to be able to take a piss without it hurting."

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