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CBS Expects To Wrap Upfront As Buyers Estimate Volume Falls

CBS said it was nearing completion of its sales for the “upfront” marketplace, which media buyers estimate will be down in terms of overall ad dollars committed in advance.

CBS secured between $2.5 billion and $2.75 billion in 2013’s upfront market, when the U.S. TV networks try to sell the bulk of their ad inventory for the coming season.

“As we near the finish line, we are very confident that CBS has once again achieved the highest pricing and most total dollars in the Upfront marketplace,” the network said in a rare, on-the-record statement concerning its activity. In most years, CBS has offered no public comment about its sales process.

“Agencies and clients continue to value the strength, stability and delivery that we provide as a pure-play broadcaster, and we are very pleased that in addition to C3, C7 is now playing a meaningful part in our negotiations,” the company said, referring to recent deals with advertisers that would have them pay for viewership of commercials up to a week after they air in traditional fashion on TV.

A network spokesman declined to offer specific figures, but media buying executives and Wall Street analysts widely expect CBS to secure less volume than it did in 2013, when it notched between $2.5 billion and $2.75 billion for its primetime schedule, according to Variety estimates. CBS may well have secured a greater amount of advance ad commitments for its entire primetime slate, which this fall will include eight Thursday-night NFL broadcasts.

Like several other networks, CBS has been seeking a narrower rate of increase in the cost of reaching 1,000 viewers, a measure known as a CPM that is central to these annual discussions between TV networks and advertisers. According to media buyers, CBS has sought CPM increases largely around 6%, compared with an average of 7.5% in last year’s haggle.

TV networks rarely offer on-the-record comments about their upfront performance, but interviews with various executives on both sides of the bargaining process often provide guidance. The last time in recent memory guidance was tamped down for most broadcast-network performance came in 2009, when a recession-plagued economy strangled the sales process and most networks were estimated to have seen volume of advance ad commitments fall as much as 10% to 15%.

Given the reduced demand evident in the current market, CBS may have held back a greater amount of inventory for sale as “scatter,” or ad time sold closer to air date, in hopes of securing a premium at a future date. In 2013, CBS sold a little less than 80% of its inventory in the upfront.

Fox, NBC, ABC and CW are all believed to still  be in the midst of talks.

 

 

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