Upfront increases modest

Only the WB leaps ahead

ORLANDO, Fla. — Despite the WB weblet snaring increases in the 15%-18% range during the primetime advertising upfront market, early reports suggest price increases for other webs are lower than the last couple of years.

The WB, which has a cheaper inventory than the Big Four, and which has scored double-digit increases in viewership, could well double its upfront revenue of last year ($150 million), according to one source. Movie advertisers are paying increases as high as nearly 30% for the WB while increases for competitor UPN were said to be in the mid-single-digit area.

Marketplace sources said Fox is cutting deals with cost per thousand (CPM) increases at mid-to-high single digits compared with last year, and ABC was said to be doing deals at 2% increases.

Feature film and automotive advertisers were the main categories cutting deals Tuesday, according to media buyers.

Last year, media buyers got caught up in a feeding frenzy and the primetime upfront market was finished in two to three days. This year, buyers said they expected the upfront will continue until at least the end of the week and probably into next week.

The WB was the only broadcast network to increase its ratings this year, and has carved out a strong position in teen demographics.

Because of declining ratings, industry observers predict that total dollars generated by the broadcast networks will be about flat with last year at slightly more than $6 billion. Last year, ratings king NBC led the upfront with $2.1 billion, followed by ABC at $1.6 billion, CBS at $1.25 billion and Fox at $1.1 billion. UPN did about $140,000 in upfront business last year.

Buyers predict that they will shift $300 million to $500 million from broadcast to cable this year.

The WB started doing business last week and has already closed deals in a range of categories, including automotive, health and beauty aids, retail, computers, movies and soft drink, marketplace sources said.