Cable Ad Upfront Starts to Move


A&E Television Networks closed a couple of unspecified
early bird upfront deals last week, while several other major cable networks were on the
verge of finalizing a few of their own.

Arlene Manos, A&E's vice president of national ad
sales, wouldn't identify those buyers, but she said it was a week during which
automotive buyers became "pretty active."

The Detroit and import car-makers seemed to be loading up
on cable as a way to gain leverage with the "Big 4" broadcast-TV networks when
their upfront begins in earnest, which will apparently be this week.

Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln-Mercury division, General
Motors Corp. and PentaCom, which buys for Chrysler Corp., have begun negotiating cable
buys, but several networks said they have not finalized anything.

Despite all of the activity, industry sources disputed a
published report that about a half-dozen agencies and a like number of cable companies had
closed deals before the Memorial Day holiday.

"There's a lot of chatter going on out there, but
no definite deals were put to bed that anyone is admitting to," said David Cassaro,
senior vice president of ad sales at E! Entertainment Television.

At Lifetime Television, Lynn Picard, senior vice president
of ad sales, said, "We haven't closed anything yet," but she hoped to do so
by midweek.

Cassaro predicted that cable's cost per thousand homes
(CPM) increases would emerge from this upfront within the 7 percent to 12 percent range,
while Manos pegged that number at 6 percent to 13 percent. Last year, sources estimated
that CPMs rose in single digits.