WB prexy/COO Jed Petrick knew he was in for a good upfront sales season last week after cracking open a fortune cookie.
Munching on the treat at a Gotham party, Petrick took note of the cookie’s sage prediction: “You will get a lot of money — and hold on to it.”
Indeed, the WB — a darling of media buyers — posted whopping cost-per-thousand (CPM) increases of around 22%. The Frog wound up scoring $710 million in the market — up from last year’s $575 million intake.
“We’ve been able to write far more business than we thought,” Petrick said. “I knew we’d be strong, but I didn’t think our CPMs would have a 2 in front of it.”
Petrick wasn’t the only network exec licking his lips last week, as the upfront blew wide open and media buyers flooded the broadcast webs with even more dollars than expected.
NBC made network history by crossing the $3 billion mark, up from $2.7 billion last year.
As remaining deals were expected to be sealed over the Memorial Day weekend, insiders were predicting a final broadcast tally of at least $9.2 billion — perhaps even as much as $9.5 billion.
That’s by far a new record for the nets, easily passing last year’s $8.1 billion intake. And it’s a further sign of Madison Ave.’s restored faith in the broadcast industry, two years after advertisers held back money and sent a chill throughout the business.
“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,” says Fox TV Entertainment Group chair Sandy Grushow.
The network upfronts were barely over last week as advertisers sprinted to buy time on the fall sked, one of the most dynamic and fiercely drawn in recent years. The new skeds virtually ensure a catfight as the ratings gap closes between the major nets.
“Networks are in a great position to sit back and demand or command pretty aggressive cost increases,” one top media buyer said.
Or, as one network exec put it: “Everybody is feeling the love.”
The ad industry, re-energized after being badly blunted by the economic downturn, didn’t even put up much of a fight before agreeing to pay double-digit cost-per-thousand bumps. That includes the WB, NBC, Fox and even ratings-challenged ABC.
The nets — all of which were posting CPM increases in the 14%-16% range — were still tallying their final totals as the week drew to a close.
Media buyers are just as gonzo over the line-up in general as they are about any particular show. They bought time across the board.
The advertisers, mostly repping the consumer sector, were apparently fine with the nets’ aggressive moves, as all six broadcasters substantially rearranged their shows, tossed counter-programming out the window and put hit shows against similar fare.
“The network races are so close right now that cutting into your competition’s audience has become just as important as improving your own performance,” says Magna Global’s Steve Sternberg. “You have a lot of time periods where two or three networks are going to be splitting viewers with very similar programming.”
Sternberg said it’s amazing that on six nights, there will be two dramas in the 10 p.m. slot going after the same audience.
On Tuesday, there are 8 p.m.-10 p.m. comedy blocks on three networks that go after young auds. And on Sunday, there are two new cop shows going head to head in the 8 p.m. slot.
“I think a number of these moves are more interesting than the new programs themselves,” another buyer said. “At the same time, I think it’s one of the strongest development slates in years.”
There frosh class includes a number of new comedies, crime/cop dramas and a pair of fantasy dramas clearly trying to steal away younger viewers from the WB. Meanwhile, most of the new shows on the WB scored well with advertisers, particularly the fantasy drama, “Tarzan & Jane.”Sternberg and other media buyers say potential hits include:
- CBS’ “The Handler,” which will air Friday at 10 p.m. Sternberg says the show could actually turn Friday evening — long a wash for the nets –around.
CBS also is bowing a “Navy CIS,” a spin-off of the hit show “JAG,” with tinges of another CBS hit, “CSI.”
- NBC’s “Coupling,” which airs 9:30 p.m. Thursday. The racy show, a combo of “Friends” and “Sex & the City,” scored big with most media buyers.
So did NBC’s new crime drama “Cold Case,” which will air 8 p.m. Sunday. NBC’s new Sunday night drama, “Lyon’s Den” also showed well at the upfront.n Fox fielded plenty of interest in Jerry Bruckheimer’s new drama “Skin,” which will go up another promising new drama, NBC’s “Las Vegas.”
- New comedies highlighted by media buyers include Fox’s “A Minute with Stan Hooper,” the WB’s “Steve Harvey’s Big Time,” and another Fox sitcom, “The Ortegas.”
ABC is getting high marks for its decision to revive the young-skewing Friday comedy block, TGIF.
Shows receiving only a lukewarm response from media buyers included:
- NBC’s new comedy “Whoopi,” headlining Whoopi Goldberg. Madison Ave. thinks the sitcom could be too controversial, with its jokes about terrorism.
“I’m not all that high on the show and I think it could offend a lot of people,” said a top media buyer.
Reaction also was mixed to ABC’s cop drama “10-8,” which buyers believe faces a tough battle against CBS’ “Cold Case.”