Cable Upfront Is Quieting Down

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With the broadcasters taking center stage last week, cable continued to quietly write upfront orders.

Sources said top-tier programmers like Turner Broadcasting System Inc., MTV Networks, Discovery Networks U.S., USA Network and Lifetime Television were nearing the finish line of the annual Madison Avenue sales bazaar.

A Turner spokesman said TBS and TNT had accounted for 80% of the inventory the nets had put aside for the upfront, and placed CPM gains in the high-single digits.

In the mix: integrated and customized marketing deals, like the one making Mitsubishi Motors North America the exclusive automotive sponsor of TBS’s Sex and the City for 15 months, beginning June 15.

Bruce Lefkowitz, Fox Cable Networks Group executive vice president of advertising, reported FX wrapped up with top agencies, and the remaining 25% of upfront inventory would be taken care of in the weeks ahead. Volume was up by a fourth, with CPM gains in the mid-single digits. The first two deals for National Geographic Channel were also concluded.

Bill Abbott, executive vice president of ad sales at Hallmark Channel, said Hallmark was halfway to upfront goals, noting volume was tracking 30% to 40% ahead, with CPM gains in mid-single digits.

Sources estimated cable might already have secured as much as $4 billion in upfront dollars.

The question for smaller networks: How many dollars will remain after the broadcasters wrap up, likely next week. Various prognosticators have projected cable’s upfront take would surpass this year’s $6 billion mark.

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