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CBS Wraps Final Upfront Deal

Dollar volume flat versus lucrative 2011-12 market

Leslie Moonves, president and chief executive officer of CBS Corporation. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

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CBS has finalized its 2012-13 upfront deals, leading the marketplace with the highest pricing increases in the industry.

According to industry sources, CBS sold its prime-time ad inventory at a healthy 9 percent premium versus last year’s rates, giving it a slight edge over rival broadcaster Fox. 

As will likely be the case for each of the broadcast networks, CBS’ dollar volume was flat versus a year ago, when it booked $2.65 billion in advance commitments. The Tiffany Network also held on to a bit more inventory than it did during last year’s spring sell-off, when it moved 80 percent of its available ad time.

Given the strength of the 2011-12 bazaar, this year’s upfront can’t help but pale in comparison. Last year, on the way toward writing $150 million in additional business, CBS booked plus-13 CPM premiums. 

While double-digit CPM hikes weren’t tenable in this particular market, sources said that network higher-ups are generally pleased with the rates and dollar volumes. Among the categories that were particularly strong for CBS are financial services, telco, retail, insurance, tech and QSR.

Media buyers last week said that at least two of the broadcasters have walked away from General Motors, which had pushed for market-confounding rollbacks—as much as 20 percent. It remains unclear if CBS was among the networks that refused to do business with GM, the nation’s third-largest TV advertiser. 

As CBS moved its upfront inventory, the sports sales team locked up a good deal of its Super Bowl avails. Two weeks ago, the network confirmed that it had already sold 50 percent of its Super Bowl XLVII units, at a rate said to be hovering around the $3.8 million mark.

CBS entered the marketplace with the most air-tight schedule, returning 19 legacy series and prepping just four new projects for a fall premiere. Such are the spoils of consistency—in nine of the past 10 seasons, CBS has delivered more viewers than any other network.

Per Nielsen, CBS closed out the season with an average nightly delivery of 11.8 million viewers, beating its nearest rival by a margin of 2.9 million. With an average 3.0 rating among adults 18-49, CBS took second place in the dollar demo, trailing Fox (3.2).

At the close of the 2011-12 season, CBS laid claim to eight of the top 10 scripted series on TV. Its biggest draw, NCIS, averaged 22.4 million total viewers upon application of seven days of DVR playback data. Among the dollar demo, The Big Bang Theory is CBS’ most successful franchise, averaging a 6.5 adult 18-49 rating per L7 data. Only NBC’s Sunday Night Football (8.0) and ABC’s Modern Family (7.4) boasted a more pumped-up rating.

While CBS dotted the T’s and crossed the I’s early Tuesday afternoon, Fox, ABC and NBC still had some business outstanding. The CW crossed the line first, wrapping its final piece of upfront business last Thursday.