Cable Upfront Nears the End

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A number of sales executives were already looking forward to celebrating July 4 with some symbolic fireworks to mark the near end of cable's 2002-2003 upfront marketplace.

Discovery Networks U.S. executive vice president Bill McGowan bullishly predicted last Friday that "virtually all" of the upfront will have been concluded by the Independence Day weekend. That's in sharp contrast to last year, when buying dragged into the Labor Day holiday.

Generally speaking, McGowan said, "most of the big agencies and most of the big deals" will be done by July 4.

"Things have gone well, the finish line is in sight," said Turner Broadcasting Sales Inc. spokesman Jim Weiss. "But given the surprising nature of this year's [upfront] season, we won't predict when we will cross it."

It was a busy period for Rainbow Advertising Sales Corp., president of national network ad sales Arlene Manos said last Thursday.

"This has been a very active week, with a lot of registrations, a lot going to hold and [with] 70 percent of deals done," she said.

Manos said she expects "moderate increases in CPMs [costs per thousands] and being up a fair amount in volume." Those projections are being met, she said.

RASCO was selling two networks — American Movie Classics and WE: Women's Entertainment — in the upfront for the first time. Business has been "going quite well," she said.

Though Manos was hopeful that RASCO could wrap its upfront sales within two weeks, she noted that "a couple [of major media-buying shops] have not moved yet."

The automotive and entertainment categories were among the strongest for RASCO, Manos noted.

ESPN/ABC Sports president of customer marketing and sales Ed Erhardt indicated that upfront sales are well on their way.

"Leveraging our primetime sports Sunday night, Monday night and the Super Bowl is having a positive impact on the marketplace," he said.

MTV Networks has notched high-single-digit and low-double-digit CPM increases, according to executive vice president of research and planning Betsy Frank.

"We are not getting mired in the double-digit decreases of Lifetime [Television] and USA [Network]," she said.

General-entertainment networks have not fared all that well in this upfront, but Frank said MTVN's entry in the sector is an exception. TNN: The National Network has seen "double or triple the revenue of a year ago," she said.

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