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Universal Expected To Choose Incumbents In Media Review

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LOS ANGELES--Universal Studios is leaning toward a split decision in the review for its consolidated $170 million media buying and planning account.
Rather than consolidating all film, theme park and home video media buying with one agency, the Universal City, Calif., client is expected to divide responsibilities between incumbents DDB Needham and Focus Media, both in Los Angeles, said sources.
DDB is expected to be awarded all media planning as well as network and cable buying, with billings estimated at $110 million. Focus is expected to get all spot TV buying, worth an estimated $60 million.
The split decision would allow the two incumbents to fend off outside challengers KSL Media, TN Media and SFM Media, all in Los Angeles.
Currently, DDB handles most of Universal's buying chores, including those for the company's film and theme park units. Focus handles buying for the home video unit. The new assignments for the two agencies will reach across the different divisions of Universal, owned by Seagram Co.
Mark Kristol, Universal's senior vice president of media and research who has been overseeing the review, did not return calls. Executives at the agencies either declined comment or could not be reached.
Universal started the review earlier this year by inviting DDB, Focus and others to pitch its consolidated assignment. Former DDB president John Bernbach was the consultant. Bernbach also declined comment.
--with Angela Dawson and Michael McCarthy