Fox Does First Primetime Upfront Ad Deals

Network quietly completed deal with at least one major media agency late last week at high single-digit CPM increases

Fox has quietly done the first deals for the broadcast primetime upfront selling season, individuals familiar with the negotiations told TheWrap.

A deal was done with at least one media agency, said to be Zenith, at cost-per-thousand (CPM) increases averaging in the high-single digits.

It included not only primetime inventory for the 2010-2011 season, but also some Sunday afternoon National Football League game commercial time.

Intense negotiations also are taking place on the cable TV side, with NBC Universal and Discovery being mentioned by individuals close to negotiations as having conversations with media agencies that lasted late into Friday.

Deals during the week following the upfront presentations (held May 17-20) is a major departure from last year, when many advertisers had not even registered their budgets with the networks until several weeks later.

The first deal last year was not done until well into June.

Last year, NBCU made the first deals in the upfront with media agency conglomerate Group M at hefty price decreases from the previous year, while Fox was content to sit back to see how the market would play out.

But this year, sensing a strong market, and coming off its sixth consecutive season of winning the ratings race among the 18- to 49-year-olds that advertisers covet, Fox has started out more aggressively in its upfront sales approach.

What's helping is a sense by media agencies that the marketplace is strong, and demand is going to be high. So this year, there will be more willingness to pay higher prices rather than take hard-line positions. It seems while the media agencies were in the driver's seat last year, the situation is reversed this year.

"I'm thinking this is going to be a busy week for all the broadcast networks," one network-side individual told The Wrap. "The market is live."