$2.1 Bil. in Upfront Sales for ABC

NEW YORK ABC sales president Mike Shaw said his network has sold $2.1 billion in primetime advertising for the 2005-06 season, excluding Monday Night Football and other primetime sports telecasts, up about 30 percent from the $1.6 billion the network sold in last year’s upfront.

In addition, Shaw said, the network sold another $800 million of advertising cumulatively in its other dayparts—early morning, daytime, evening news, and night time.

In primetime, Shaw confirmed earlier reports that the network’s cost-per-thousand increases were between 4 percent and 6 percent, while the CPM increases garnered in the other dayparts were in the 3-5 percent range, with early morning show Good Morning America at the high end with 5 percent CPM increases.

Shaw said he sold between 78 percent and 83 percent of ABC’s available primetime inventory in this year’s upfront, compared to 75-80 percent last year.

Shaw praised his parent company, Walt Disney Co., for its hefty investment in new programming for next season—ABC will premiere five new shows in the fall, and another six in mid-season—on top of the five successful new shows it launched this season.

He said ABC entertainment president Stephen McPherson’s scheduling for the fall, and his decision to announce the exact time periods for every mid-season show, were big reasons the network was able to bring in more ad dollars and several new advertisers, possibly stealing dollars from some rival broadcast networks.

“The buyers told us they very much liked our strategy,” Shaw said. “Our company let us go for it, with 11 new shows, both in the fall and in mid-season. The fact that Disney helped us with their financial investment was huge for us.”

Shaw said because of McPherson’s scheduling, he was able to get buyer interest in buying same-night packages. “A lot of buyers liked the flow of Commander in Chief into Boston Legal and Lost into Invasion,” he said. Shaw also said buyers were pleased to be able to buy mid-season shows knowing their time periods. He said that strategy facilitated sales.

Shaw acknowledged that ABC was able to charge lower-than-expected CPM increases (for a network that produced 17 percent ratings gains this season in the 18-49 demo) because it compensated by bringing in new advertisers in categories that already pay a higher premium, like movie companies and retailers. Also, Shaw had more gross rating points to sell because ratings were up, so the network decided to concentrate on selling more volume of ads rather than jacking up the pure CPM to bring in added dollars.

ABC was able to attract new advertisers in the movies and entertainment, luxury autos, technology, and financial services categories. Shaw also acknowledged that moving Alias from Wednesday 9 p.m. to Thursday at 8 p.m. and pairing it with new drama series Nightstalker resulted in the network attracting more ad dollars on the biggest advertiser night of the week.

“We are extremely happy with all the new business we took in and with the new mix of advertisers we have,” Shaw said.