CBS, NBC move on upfront deals

Eye commands double-digit rate hikes in a strong market

CBS has begun booking upfront sales with solid rate hikes, but the network is still shy of the overall 18% year-over-year CPM hikes Eye execs initially sought.

Meanwhile, NBC has just about a third of its ad inventory left to sell, but management and programming changes put in place by new owner Comcast are still not enough to convince Madison Avenue to pay more than high single-digit increases so far.

While Fox wrapped up its upfront sales early last week, dealmaking for the other nets began in earnest last week and stretched into the early morning hours Saturday before resuming on Monday, say execs and ad buyers involved in those negotiations.

The stakes are high this year, with Barclays Capital projecting that spending could be up nearly 8% to $9.23 billion among the Big Four nets, following big gains seen recently in the scatter market.

CBS insiders are touting rate increases of 14% to 15%, with deals put in place with several of the large media buying agencies. Competitors, however, said they were hearing rate hikes were more in the 12% to 13% range, which still puts the Eye on the high end of the market. Among CBS’ big bets for the fall is its decision to put rookie drama “Person of Interest” in the key Thursday 9 p.m. slot.

NBC, under the direction of longtime Peacock ad exec Marianne Gambelli, is seeing increases in the 9% range on average, similar to previous years despite a fresh programming slate developed by new NBC Entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt, including buzzed-about new dramas “The Playboy Club” and “Smash.”

ABC, in turn, is sealing deals at a steady clip, and could be finished by midweek. Rate increases on average have been in the 10% to 11% range.

Fox booked just shy of $2 billion in advance commitments for the coming season. Net’s CPM hikes averaged about 11%-12% versus 2010, with sales of about 80% of its inventory.

CW is close to wrapping up its dealmaking, with sales expected to top the $400 million market, a healthy increase from last year’s take.