Upfront blasts off with WB heat

Frog net's new sked attractive to advertisers

NEW YORK — TV’s annual upfront ad buying derby is off to a fast and furious start, with advertisers said to be lining up early to do deals for early morning and evening news programs and with the red hot WB.

Advertising industry sources say the Frog net has already started writing “significant” business and may even be trying to slow down the pace of sales. Still, several agency insiders predicted WB could wrap most of its upfront deals by today or Thursday.

Pre-upfront predictions had the WB getting CPM (cost per thousand) increases of around 20%, in part because the net’s base price has been discounted far below that of the Big Four established webs.

Ad industry insiders, however, now say WB is writing CPM increases of more than 30%, a phenomenal figure even given the net’s low base price. Industry analysts say the net’s new sked, revealed last week, is proving to be particularly attractive to advertisers seeking the young femme aud.

In addition, WB is benefiting from this season’s audience erosion among established nets, particularly NBC, which lost 16% of its women 18-34 ratings points. By contrast, WB is up 19% in the same demo.

Upfront activity hasn’t been limited to WB. Insiders say the Big Three are already moving ad time in ayem news shows like “Today” and “Good Morning America,” as well as in their evening newscasts.

Not surprisingly, NBC’s “Today” is leading the way with CPM increases of around 10% The show is likely to once again capture as much as 50% of the total ayem news market.

In a sign of just how strong the upfront seems to be, however, ABC’s “Good Morning America” and CBS’ soon-to-be revamped and retitled morning block are also said to be getting solid CPM increases. The announcements that Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer would be sticking around “GMA” next season and that Bryant Gumbel would be back in the ayem on CBS have also helped move dollars into the daypart, sources said.

NBC and Fox have also started doing some early primetime business, particularly with automakers and movie studios, insiders say. The entire upfront could wrap by the end of next week.

Networks typically sell about 80% of their total primetime inventory during the upfront buying frenzy. That figure may go down a tad if webs decide to hold back some inventory with the hope that spots will fetch even better CPM increases in the scatter market next winter.

As much as $6.8 billion is expected to be spent on upfront ad inventory over the next two weeks.