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Steve Burke: NBC Going Into Upfronts in Strongest Position in ‘Over a Decade’ (Update)

NBCU CEO predicts improved ratings will be ”worth a lot“

NBC is going into the May upfront presentations to advertisers in its best position in more than a decade, NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke said Tuesday.

Though CBS remains the most-watched network overall, NBC is winning in the 18-to-49 demographic that advertisers consider most desirable.

Also read: Earnings: Comcast Beats Expectations With Help From Sochi Games

In an earnings call for Comcast, which owns NBCU, Burke predicted NBC will top CBS’s ratings by 12 percent this season. Last season, CBS beat NBC by 17 percent, said Burke (pictured with Jimmy Fallon).

“I think we’re going into the upfront with the best position we’ve had in over a decade, primarily driven by NBC,” Burke told investors and reporters. “We’re looking at this upfront as a chance to have a correction in that monetization gap. It’s hard to precisely say how much that is going to be worth to us, but it’s gonna be worth a lot.”

Also read: Upfronts 2013: NBC Finishes Sales With $2.1B Take, Up From Last Year

At the upfronts, networks try to woo advertisers to buy ads on their airwaves by boasting about their ratings successes and previewing their shows for the upcoming season.

Last year, NBC booked roughly $2.1 billion in advertising sales, up from $1.8 billion in 2012, a person close to the negotiations told TheWrap in July. CBS held steady at $2.7 billion in upfront sales.

Also read: Less Walk, More Rock: NBCU Bundling Cable Upfronts Presentations

In its earnings report Tuesday, Comcast said NBCU’s revenue increased 28.8 percent to $6.9 billion in the first quarter, compared to $5.3 billion in the first quarter of 2013. It was mostly driven by Sochi Winter Olympics revenue of $1.1 billion.

(For the record: An earlier version of this story said Burke was referring to NBC’s advertising take when he gave the percentage differences with CBS. NBC has clarified that he was referring to ratings, not ad dollars.)