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ABC Wraps TV Upfront Sales; Volume Seen Flat To Slightly Down

Disney net did not temper its desire for greater price increases, but may have sacrificed volume

Walt Disney’s ABC has wrapped its upfront sales effort, according to a person familiar with the network, the last big broadcast outlet to do so in what has been perhaps the most protracted session since recession-wracked 2009. Buyers estimate ABC has secured slightly fewer advance advertising commitments than it did in 2012.

The network, the home of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Dancing With The Stars,” had a tougher road in this year’s market, when TV networks try to sell the bulk of their ad inventory for the coming season. With prime-time ratings down at the network, ABC executives met with resistance when they pushed for price hikes in the cost of reaching 1,000 viewers, a measure known as a CPM that is widely used in these discussions, that were on par with or higher than what ABC tried to get in 2012.

ABC was indeed able to secure CPM increases in the range of 7% to 8%, but it may have paid for its demands by taking in fewer commitments than it did in 2012.

Ad buyers said Geri Wang, president of ABC Sales, would not back off her negotiating stance, even though several other networks, notably CBS, opted to do business for a smaller rate of increase than it secured in 2012. CBS was said by buyers to be doing business with CPM increases of around 7.5%. In 2012, CBS was able to secure CPM hikes of between 8% and 9% in 2012.

In 2012, ABC secured advance ad commitments totaling between $2.2 billion and $2.3 billion, compared with $2.3 billion to $2.4 billion.  The network’s 2013 number is estimated to be slightly below last year’s volume, though some buyers have suggested ABC’s upfront totals could have fallen by as much as 5%.

The amount of inventory sold this year by ABC could not be immediately learned.Because ABC’s total dollar volume declined slightly from its 2012 upfront totals even though it won higher ad rates, once could surmise that ABC sold less ad time in the upcoming season than it did last year. In 2012, the network appeared to follow a similar strategy.

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