Fox scores with sport as CPM soars

As TV ad sales execs and media buyers returned to their desks Tuesday after the long holiday weekend, upfront ad sales activity spread like rolling thunder through Madison Avenue and network exec suites.

The conversations between buyers and sellers that percolated last week accelerated quickly into full-blown negotiations.

The generally strong demand for TV time during the past few months has buyers moving forcefully to cut the most advantageous deals possible in what is shaping up to be a sellers’ upfront market (Daily Variety, 28).

“It’s going to be a very busy week,” said one net exec close to the action.

Fox was quick to capitalize on its position as the No. 1 net in the adults 18-49 demo by cutting deals early out of the gate Tuesday at CPM (cost-per-thousand viewer) rate increases that were described in the high single digits.

That’s a strong showing in any year and it’s particularly welcome news after last year when the broadcast nets took a bath as recession-wary advertisers slashed marketing budgets.

Fox’s activity was driven in part by its hefty slate of sports programming and the fact that it has next year’s Super Bowl telecast.

The network is said to be getting good feedback from buyers for its push next season to seed a new generation of live-action comedies. And moody frosh drama “Lonestar” has also drawn high marks. The show has a good shot at drawing an aud, at least initially, as it has been slotted for the fall in the Monday 9 p.m. slot behind “House.”

CBS was also said to be deep in negotiations and driving hard for strong rate increases, given the overall strength of its sked and the promise of high-profile newcomers such as “Hawaii Five-0″ and laffer “Mike and Molly.”

CW, ABC and NBC are also well on their way to cutting deals.

NBC Universal is believed to be pitching buyers on a Peacock-wide sales strategy, pushing the NBC broadcast net along with its highly rated cablers USA, Syfy and Bravo. Turner’s TBS and TNT are also out in front in this year’s upfront, industry insiders said.

The broadcast nets and major cablers typically book advance commitments for as much as 70% to 80% of their ad inventory for the coming season during the post-season upfront market, when rates are pre-determined and backed by audience delivery guarantees.

High prices in the past few months in the short-term scatter market, where pricing fluctuates with demand, has marketers eager to lay down their dollars for next season early in the upfront auction.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more