NBC gets aggressive in selling Olympics ads

The major TV nets and Madison Avenue got down to business Tuesday on booking advance advertising commitments for the 2008-09 season.

With between 20% and 50% of upfront deals consummated, media buyers said that top-rated Fox and ABC are driving the market so far.

Amid the recent bearish forecasts that upfront sales could be down as much as 14% from last year’s nearly $9 billion haul, media buyers said that CPM (cost per thousand) rate increases had been higher than some expected but still mostly in the mid-to-high single-digit territory.

“There appears to be more money coming into the upfront market than (sellers) anticipated,” said one Big Four exec.

Media buyers noted that NBC was being aggressive in trying to move unsold spots from its Summer Olympics ad inventory in its upfront negotiations. Peacock sources indicated that requests were coming from buyers seeking value pricing on Olympics inventory, given the strength of pricing in the scatter market these days.

In response to marketplace chatter that NBC’s Olympics sales were moving more slowly than in years past, one Peacock vet noted that the 1996 Summer Olympics telecasts from Atlanta weren’t entirely sold out until the day of the Opening Ceremony.

Among deals reported so far, the Peacock was said to be close to a pact with media agency GroupM on media primetime inventory for an average CPM increase of 5%.

CBS was understood to be stepping up its conversations on Tuesday but had yet to dive in with both feet in terms of writing business. The Eye’s sibling netlet CW was believed to be in the same position.

Turner’s cablers continued to stir buzz in the market with their aggressive push to seek low double-digit CPM hikes — gains that broadcasters are failing to achieve. As the Big Four grapple with significant ratings shortfalls, some media buyers are predicting a bull market for cable, with Turner in the driver’s seat.

“Budgets have been and continue to be registered at a pretty good pace, and they’re kind of moving right along with some of the top-tier broadcast networks in terms of where they are in the negotiations,” said a biz insider familiar with Turner’s upfront talks. “But at this point, people are still doing a lot of talking.”

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