ABC wraps upfront dealmaking

Net books $2.4 bil in advertising commitments

Advertisers committed more coin than last year to primetime broadcast shows as the broadcast networks wrapped up selling for the 2011-12 upfront season on Thursday.

By concluding the whole process in under two weeks, marketers signaled continued enthusiasm for the nets that drove the scatter market by solid double-digit gains in recent months, but the lofty boasts in private from some showbiz execs that rate increases would near 20% proved too optimistic.

Ratings leader CBS again led the way this upfront season, booking sales that were up by $100 million-$150 million vs. last year’s take of nearly $2.5 billion, according to sources familiar with the commitments. CPM rates edged higher by 13%-15%. The Eye sold nearly 80% of inventory, comparable to if not slightly less than last year.NBC, with a new owner in Comcast and a new programming czar in Bob Greenblatt, had reason to boast this year as well, with CPM rates up 9%, a substantial gain from the two previous years and ahead of an 8% projection from Wall Street. NBC received $100 million more in commitments than last year, when it booked $1.6 billion from advertisers, with roughly the same amount of inventory — 80% — sold. Sales at NBC News programs, including “Today,” were robust, and sales for NBC’s Sunday night broadcast of NFL games were at an all-time high, signaling optimism from Madison Avenue that a full season will be played.

ABC said it saw solid gains in pricing, too, without being specific. It is believed to have received commitments of $2.4 billion for its primetime lineup, up from $2.2 billion last year. What’s more, rate increases averaged 11%-12%, healthy gains from last year’s CPM hikes of 8%-9%.

Executives declined to be interviewed, but the net said in a statement: “Buoyed by a strong response from advertisers to a schedule that was equal parts stability and ambition that includes TV’s No. 1 drama and No. 1 comedy and many buzz-worthy new additions, ABC has concluded its upfront negotiations, achieving significant increases in pricing.”

A week ago, Fox concluded upfront selling, finishing up with just under $2 billion in advance commitments, with CPMs averaging about 11%-12% over last year’s rates. CW, too, finished up last Thursday with commitments of $400 million-$420 million on CPM gains averaging 11%.