CBS Gambit Paid Off

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New York— Despite his "hands-off" claim, Viacom Inc. president Mel Karmazin had his say in the CBS Television Network's bold ad strategy last summer. He mandated a controversial approach to the upfront, in which the broadcast network declined to cut CPMs [costs per thousand] and held back a lot of ad inventory to sell in the scatter market, banking that prices would rise.

Prices did rise.

Some TV ad executives say Karmazin was lucky. Others, including MTV Networks chairman Tom Freston, said he was smart.

"Everybody had said that Mel made the wrong decision on the CBS upfront," Freston said. "Well, he made the totally right decision. CBS is selling out at higher rates than they sold in the upfront."

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