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Cable Upfront Looking Better This Year

After years of explosive growth, last year's spending in the annual cable upfront came in flat, making it the second-worst ever in terms of percentage growth, with the exception of the one after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The medium found itself beset by problems, including a leveling off of ratings and penetration growth. It was no longer stealing viewers--and ad dollars--from the broadcast networks while it faced a new competitor: the Internet. While that would seem an ill omen for this year's upfront, some media analysts say cable is doing fine and will get a spending increase.

"It should be a better year than last year," says David Joyce, an analyst with investment firm Miller Tabak & Co. "It's possible this could be a year for mid-single-digit growth for the cable networks." A senior analyst at Kagan Research, Derek Baine, sees an increase for the full year, although a shift to year-round buying may dampen the upfront a bit.



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