With the Big 4 and The CW collecting some $9.1 billion in upfront primetime business, it's cable's turn to be front and center at the annual Madison Avenue bazaar.
The strength of the broadcast market pumped up cable. Turner Broadcasting, which usually enters the market with aggressive price goals, was the first cable group to complete deals with the majority of agencies, scoring price increases of 12% to 13%.
Turner was getting especially strong pricing for its original programming and for recently acquired off-network hits The Big Bang Theory and The Mentalist. TruTV, which raised its profile during Turner's rookie season coverage NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship, also known as March Madness, was getting pricing similar to TNT and TBS, according to sources.
NBC Cable also came out aggressive, asking for increases of 17% to 20% for its biggest networks, including USA Network, which long has been considered underpriced considering it ranks as the top-rated cable network. Sources said NBC Cable began doing deals that called for price increases in the low to mid-teens for its big networks. It was also getting double-digit price increases for its smaller networks.
Fox's cable networks, with deals in the 10% to 11% range, and MTV Networks were also in the game. The latter was getting about 8% for struggling channels like VH1 and Spike, but 11% for Comedy Central.
Cable network sales executive said they thought the upfront would be up about 12% in volume, with price increase ranging from 8% to 12%.