Cable Upfront Still Humming Along


With the broadcasters taking center stage this past 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 Superstation and Turner Network Television had accounted for 80% of the inventory the networks had put aside for the upfront, and he placed CPM (cost per thousand homes) gains in the high-single-digits.

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

Fox Cable Networks Group executive vice president of advertising Bruce Lefkowitz reported that 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 one-fourth, with CPM gains in the mid-single-digits. The first two deals for National Geographic Channel were also concluded.

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

Sources estimated that 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 this coming week? Various prognosticators have projected that cable’s upfront take would surpass this year’s $6 billion mark.