Movies, cars boost upfront ad market

NEW YORK — Movie studios continued to pace the upfront ad sales market Friday, booking much of their ad business for the fall season along with automakers.

Market leader NBC on Friday limited sales to those two key categories, and was expected to hang an open-for-business sign for other advertisers today. The Peacock network was said to have finished sales to movie studios with cost-per-thousand increases averaging 14%; Fox got 11% to 12% hikes; ABC continued to sell at 10% increases and CBS sold at a wide range of pricing, with a middle ground of 7% to 8%, buyers said.

Ranges are based on prior-year pricing, which varies by studio, but the networks so far have been successful at getting increases because selling cars and movies requires large chunks of network inventory, and few can afford to walk away from top webs and risk missing target audiences.

While DreamWorks SKG infused the market with new money, other studios plan fewer releases and are curbing ad spending proportionately. The entire movie category is expected to remain roughly flat, with one source estimating the total take will eventually reach $550 million.

“We’re all allegedly cutting our production so you don’t want to overbuy, because at the end of the year you’ll have all this stuff left you won’t know what to do with,” said one studio buyer.

Key buys for most moviemakers this year are NBC and Fox, with ABC and CBS picking up the slack and WB and UPN getting leftovers, although weblets get some business from studios heavy with especially young-skewing slates.

From automakers, NBC was getting increases of 14%, and Fox 11% to 12%. ABC and CBS pricing could not be estimated reliably, but the Eye web was said to have sought modest increases to improve its share of category ad volume.

On broader upfront sales, CBS was said to be selectively selling to important clients, but the web “wants to hold off until NBC gets active,” said one buyer. Fox is quietly writing business but isn’t rushing to open the floodgates.

Based on early results from these top-spending categories, it remains unclear how aggressively the entire market will come in this year. With dollar volume in daytime and news dayparts flat (Daily Variety, May 30) and movie sales steady, webs will have to compensate elsewhere to meet their goal for 5% across-the-board volume gains, which would put the primetime total at a record $6 billion.

The market should close out Tuesday or Wednesday.

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