Upfront sales on $9 bil pace

WB leads pack with 20% to 23% increase

The upfront ad sales marketplace blew wide open Wednesday, as media buyers flooded the broadcast networks with even more dollars than expected.

The flurry of deals has some insiders predicting that the broadcast nets may sell out the bulk of their spots by this weekend, making it the fastest-moving upfront in years.

Overall, prognosticators now predict a final broadcast tally anywhere between $8.8 billion and $9.2 billion — easily setting a new record and passing last year’s $8.1 billion intake.

“For whatever reason, there just seems to be a tremendous amount of money in the marketplace and a huge continuing belief in the power of broadcast TV,” said Fox TV Entertainment Group prexy Sandy Grushow.

Advertisers seem to be embracing the fall schedules announced last week in New York, with the nets aggressively asking for — and getting –double digit cost-per-thousand bumps. That includes the WB, NBC, Fox and even ratings-challenged ABC.

Nets ‘in great position’

“The money is there, across all dayparts, including those which are soft, i.e., daytime,” one top media buyer said. “Networks are in a great position to sit back and demand or command pretty aggressive cost increases.”

NBC and Fox appear to be posting CPM increases of between 13% and 15% (although 16% increases are also possible), while ABC is close behind, with bumps between 12% and 14%.

“As of now, everybody is in sale. There is a lot more money than what everybody thought. It’s very robust,” an ABC exec said.

CBS — which traditionally wraps up the market — appeared to be the only network holding back, waiting to gauge how high to increase its rates. Because the Eye and sister weblet UPN haven’t written much business yet, it was too soon to tell where those two nets will land.

But by late Wednesday, even CBS — No. 1 in terms of overall viewers — was starting to sell in earnest.

Then there’s the WB, leading the pack with an astounding 20% to 23% increase in its CPM (cost per thousand) rates next season.

“We’ve been able to write far more business than we thought,” said WB prexy Jed Petrick. “I knew we’d be strong, but I didn’t think (our CPMs) would have a 2 in front of it.”

$700 mil in sales foreseen

The net, catering to younger persons 12-34 and adults 18-34 demos, expects to sell more than $700 million in ad time, compared with last year’s $575 million total.

Rival nets pointed out that it wouldn’t be fair to compare the Frog’s CPM increases to theirs, considering that the WB is a younger net still coming from a lower sales base. But nonetheless, the WB’s big increases repped a solid vote of approval by media buyers.

Network sales execs and media buyers pulled all-nighters Tuesday and Wednesday nights as the bulk of business was completed.

The WB and NBC are expected to wrap up their deals and announce final tallies by the end of the week, according to industry insiders, with the others close behind.

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