CW feels squeeze in upfront

Net booked close to $650 mil for upcoming season

The CW turned in modest numbers in its first upfront, reflecting a market that appears to have fewer advertising dollars overall than last year.

The CW, formed from the merger of the WB and UPN, finished selling on Friday, booking close to $650 million for the 2006-07 season.

The net sold a little more than 80% of its volume, or about the same as the WB did last year, with rate increases of 1%-2%.

The network declined to comment except to say execs finished their upfront sales and the CW had secured a wider group of advertisers than either the WB or UPN alone.

“We’re very pleased with the upfront, and we did very well in a tough marketplace,” a spokesman said.

But the fact that the CW — which boasts a schedule laden with the highest-rated shows from the WB and UPN — won additional advertisers but few additional dollars reflects slack marketplace demand.

Last year the WB was widely reported to have booked $675 million in the upfront, but sources said that number was too high and that $650 million reps an increase from last year. Agency sources estimated the WB’s take last year at under $600 million, while UPN booked $325 million.

Heading into the upfront, Interpublic’s Magna Global predicted the CW would gain 15%-20% in viewers vs. the WB alone, thanks to stronger shows on the sked.

But the CW’s take came in quite a bit lower than the mid-$700 million number many had predicted for the weblet, reflecting concern that combining the two nets won’t deliver significant ratings increases for the existing shows.

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