Cable Upfront Tally Approaches $1B Target


As cable's upfront ad-sales bazaar approached its
finale, two network executives stuck to their $3.8 billion upfront expectations, which
would mean an increase of $1 billion, or 36 percent, from a year ago.

Others were adamant late last week that the total will be
closer to $3.6 billion, or an $800 million (30 percent) gain.

The sales were wrapped at E! Entertainment Television last
Thursday, except for "a couple of stragglers," executive vice president David
Cassaro said. He was one of the two executives who clung to the $3.8 billion forecast.

Cassaro described the upfront as the fastest breaking in
memory and one that concluded "beyond our wildest expectations -- a tremendous
upfront with more demand than supply."

Acknowledging that some others are citing cable gains
anywhere from $600 million to close to $1 billion, Cassaro maintained that the increase
was "at least $1 billion and possibly over that."

Discovery Networks U.S. senior vice president of ad sales
Bill McGowan said last Thursday that he, too, was sure that the "fire-hot"
upfront rise was "clearly $1 billion. The only question now is will it go north of $1
billion, and by how much?"

If the networks' upfront rose by $800 million or more,
given the ongoing shift of dollars from broadcast to cable, McGowan said, "the
worst-case scenario would be [cable's gain being] at least even with that of the

Broadcast networks, which had flat upfront sales a year
ago, had a stronger-than- expected market. Although McGowan's crystal ball in April
foresaw a $500 million rise, to $6.5 billion, the broadcasters actually topped $7 billion.

Lifetime Television senior vice president of ad sales Lynn
Picard stuck to her $3.6 billion cable reading last week, although she inched that
slightly upward. "As far as I can tell, it seems to be ending up between $3.6
[billion] and $3.7 [billion]," she added.

Turner Broadcasting Sales Inc. executives, who anticipated
a $3.3 billion market in April, revised that to $3.6 billion last week. "It's
virtually impossible to be sure of the final figure," a Turner spokesman said, adding
that the company based its estimate on Turner's accounting for 25 percent of the

As for cost per thousand homes (CPM) increases, Cassaro
described them as "aggressive," particularly among "the younger, more
targeted networks like E!, Comedy Central and VH1," which saw upticks closer to 20

Otherwise, he added, CPM hikes were in the 14 percent to 16
percent range.

Programmers said strong spending increases from about
one-dozen categories fueled cable's boom.

Picard and Cassaro pointed to automotive and "the
dot.coms," or Internet-related marketers. For E! the automotive category "went
through the roof," Cassaro said. Picard singled out and Yahoo! Inc. among
Web companies.

Other big spenders included movie studios and computer
hardware and software marketers -- "chips and salsa" -- among them Dell Computer
Corp., Gateway 2000, Hewlett Packard-Co. and Intel Corp., Cassaro said.

On the other hand, packaged-goods marketers "had some
difficulty getting money down because of their lower CPM bases," he added.

Categories fueling growth at Lifetime ranged from
pharmaceuticals and financial to insurance and telecommunications, Picard said.

Looking a year ahead, Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau
president Joseph Ostrow expects another hefty upfront for cable, although he wouldn't
venture a dollar projection.