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CBS Takes in $2.4B; Upfront Could Now Reach $9B

With ABC and NBC close to done, primetime ad dollars could increase by 25 percent over last year

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

With CBS completing its upfront negotiations Tuesday, and taking in about $2.4 billion in primetime advertising dollars, the total for the five English-language broadcast networks could reach $9 billion, 25 percent higher than last year.

That total would be what TheWrap had predicted in its pre-upfront stories in early May prior to the networks making their programming presentations to media buyers. And it would far exceed the estimates of most Wall Street analysts.

The three-network total for Fox, the CW and CBS is about $4.7 billion, and ABC and NBC combined should add close to another $4.3 billion to that total. Both networks are close to done and could have their negotiations completed by Wednesday, individuals familiar with the dealings told TheWrap.

Those individuals told TheWrap that CBS averaged in the 9 percent range for price hikes compared to last year, similar to Fox. ABC was also doing primetime deals averaging close to 9 percent increases, while NBC was doing primetime deals at 6-7 percent average increases,

CBS, along with ABC and NBC, took a little more time than Fox and the CW because other dayparts like early morning, daytime, evening news and late-night also had to be negotiated. Fox and the CW offer primetime programming only.

Also delaying things was that with Fox having set the market with 9 percent increases as the 18-49 demo leader, 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.

It seems that the networks succeeded.

If all 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.