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$1 Bil. Upfront Deal for GroupM

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NEW YORK WPP's GroupM and its media shops MindShare, Mediaedge:cia and MediaCom and media company NBC Universal have struck an estimated $1 billion TV advertising deal, the first major agreement in this year's upfront market.

The deal is based on live-plus-three commercial ratings, the newly launched system from Nielsen Media Research.

Live plus three refers to the viewing audience plus three days of DVR playback.

GroupM and NBC confirmed striking the deal but declined to provide further comment.

Sources said that GroupM, which oversees the WPP media agencies, and which is led by CEO Irwin Gotlieb, "orchestrated" the agreement with the General Electric-owned media company. But sources also stressed that the three media shops negotiated their own individual deals.

Sources said the deal includes most major clients at the GroupM shops and covers all of NBC Universal's cable properties, the NBC TV Network and Spanish-language net Telemundo. The deal also covers digital platforms and branded entertainment and product integration applications. The agreement is also said to cover most dayparts.

MindShare clients included in the deal are Sprint, Unilever, IBM and American Express. Participating MEC clients include Paramount, Cingular and Dr Pepper, among others. MediaCom clients involved include Volkswagen, Nokia, Warner Bros. and Staples.

What remains to be seen is the subsequent pace of deals. Other shops confirm they are in talks, but no other agency has confirmed deals as of now.

Commercial ratings have been a source of controversy leading into the upfront, with little consensus as to how they would be applied. GroupM has been at the forefront of those suggesting that live plus three as a currency made the most sense.

This is the first upfront where commercial ratings will be used widely as currency, but just how broadly remains unclear. The broadcast networks have indicated a willingness to use commercial ratings as long as advertisers are willing to pay for viewers watching spots via DVR playback.

The GroupM-NBC deal signals some of the country's biggest marketers are willing to do that.

Adweek and Nielsen Media Research are units of the Nielsen Co.