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Broadcast Upfront Could Top $8.6 Billion, 20% Over Last Year

Early indications are networks sold 15 percent more inventory at price hikes averaging between 6-9 percent

It’s going to be a banner year for network upfront ad sales.

Total primetime upfronts dollars could jump by about 20 percent over last year, people familiar with the ongoing negotiations told TheWrap, and talks  are nearing completion with ABC, CBS and NBC. When added to the revenue already generate by Fox and The CW, the primetime upfront total could reach  at least $8.6 billion, a significant bump over last year’s totals.

While a few media agencies were continuing to haggle with the networks as of Monday night, ABC and CBS were doing primetime deals at the high end of close to 9 percent increases and at the low end in the area of 8 percent, TheWrap was told. NBC was doing prime time deals at 6-7 percent average increases.

The Big Three networks are taking a little more time than Fox and The CW to complete their deals because other dayparts  like early morning, daytime, evening news; and late night also have to be negotiated. Fox and The CW offer primetime programming only.

Also delaying things was Fox, which set the market with 9 percent increases as the 18-49 demo leader; in light of that, media agencies were trying to take a harder lines in their negotiations with other networks. But with the marketplace so strong, and the agencies holding a lot of client dollars to put down, the networks were pushing back.

If the broadcast negotiations are wrapped up in the next day or so, it would be earlier than negotiations even started in last year’s broadcast upfront, which eventually lasted well into July.

Despite the economy still being depressed, advertisers seemingly have bought the networks’ pitch that consumers need to be reached — even in a soft marketplace. And with heavy competition in virtually every major category, with auto, retail, wireless, technology, fast food restaurants and movies leading the way, advertisers were putting pressure on their agencies to get their money down early this year.

The other factor was the high price of advertising in the scatter market this past year. Advertisers who did not get all their money placed in last year’s primetime upfront are paying between 20-30 percent more for their commercials right now because they didn’t lock in those lower prices in the upfront.