Bill Morningstar, executive vice president-media sales for The WB, and another network sales executive who participated in the event, told MediaDailyNews that he has been invited to join the group, dubbed the Network Upfront Discussion Group (NUDG), but is still awaiting clearance from The WB's legal counsel before accepting.
While an official reaction from the Association of National Advertisers, which organized the group, could not be gotten at presstime, some of NUDG's organizers said the ANA had full vetted the initiative with its lawyers and was confident there are no legal obstacles, though legal counsel is expected to participate in the meetings.
In a previous interview with MDN (March 31), ANA President-CEO Bob Liodice said, "The legal fit seems to work," though he emphasized that the group could not "directly or indirectly" discuss anything that could impact upfront pricing.
The ANA announced NUDG on April 8, after agreeing to take up a challenge made by Carat North America chief David Verklin during the ANA's March 10 Television Advertising Forum in New York. The group has slated April 29 for its first meeting, and several organizers said they expected it to go on as scheduled despite concerns from network executives.
The ANA's Liodice seemed to anticipate such resistance in his April 8 entry on the ANA's blog: "My guess is that there is going to be a lot of nervousness and emotion about this discussion group," he wrote, adding, "There shouldn't be. The upfront has been around for decades and will likely exist for more to come. But that longevity doesn't mean that the process can't be improved." The first NUDG meeting will take place in Manhattan behind closed doors. It is expected to involve between five and seven ANA members, five to seven media buying heads who are members of the Association of American Advertising Agencies, and executives from broadcast and cable networks. Donna Speciale, president of U.S. broadcast at MediaVest, confirmed during MEDIA's Outfront event that she will participate in the group. Carat's Verklin previously indicated that he'd like a seat at the table, as well.
Jo Ann Ross, head of ad sales for CBS, was traveling Friday afternoon and couldn't be reached for comment. But earlier this week, Ross said that she had received a letter of invitation, and was leaning toward participating in the committee.