Hoisting the sales

Upfront buys percolate

Fox, NBC and CBS have completed close to half of their advance sales of airtime for the coming TV season, while ABC is still sitting on the sidelines.

News Corp. president and chief operating officer Peter Chernin told investors at the Deutsche Bank Media Conference in Santa Monica that Fox had sold 70% of its inventory offered for upfront ad commitments this year.

He predicted Fox would exceed the $1.6 billion in upfront dollars the network booked last year, with CPM, or cost per thousand, rate increases of 2%-3%.

He said he believes CBS and NBC are in “similar positions” in terms of the amount of inventory sold.

CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves did not dispute Chernin’s assessment. “We are very pleased with the progress we’re making,” he said at the confab. “I would basically concur with what Peter said.”

Moonves indicated that the Eye had not yet reached the 70% benchmark.

Other sources said NBC is closer to 40% sold.

Fox sells 15 hours of network programming a week, while CBS, NBC and ABC sell 22 hours.

In a presentation to analysts, Chernin offered a robust assessment of Fox’s upfront, driven by hits including “House” and “American Idol.”

Rather than push for larger increases, Chernin said Fox’s strategy going into the upfront has been to “go for volume.”

But he said booking quick sales won’t take a toll on rate increases, which he expects to be higher than any net except the Alphabet net.

“There is no question in my mind that we will have greater CPM increases than anyone but ABC, despite what anyone tells you,” Chernin said.

NBC still has the highest ad rates, a remnant of its one-time dominance in the 18-49 demographic. Chernin said NBC still garners ad rates of about $30 per thousand viewers, as does Fox.

CBS, he said, has rates 10% lower than Fox, with ABC’s about 10% lower than CBS.

“My guess is you will see the largest CPM increases on ABC because they had a good year and are on a much lower CPM basis than everyone else,” Chernin added.

ABC had initially held out to try to force the advertising community to add into the ratings viewers who watch recorded shows on DVRs.

Now it’s holding out for higher ad rates for hits such as “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Walt Disney Co. chief financial officer Tom Staggs said ABC’s upfront sales had been “slow to develop” compared with last year, when the Alphabet sold most of its inventory in a 48-hour period.

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