Soft Economy to Drag Out Upfront


 Following a somewhat unusual upfront presentation week that saw fewer new shows than the norm--16 vs. 29 last year--buyers last week said they're happy with what they saw for fall and confident the nets will have plenty of new stuff ready for midseason.

The marketplace now comes into focus with questions about how long will it take to cut ad deals. And that, buyers say, will depend on how greedy the network sales chiefs are.

Buyers generally praised CBS and Fox for having quality new shows ready for fall. They were less jazzed with ABC bringing back its entire Wednesday of first-year shows to relaunch again this fall. Some also were pleased The CW has two new shows that fit right into its audience wheelhouse. But they said if any of those networks demand hefty price increases, it will be a long upfront negotiation.

The depressed economy was repeatedly cited as the key reason advertisers will not overpay for advertising, especially when the networks are coming off a down ratings season.

"The fact that GroupM did Nickelodeon kids deal during upfront presentation week probably means that broadcast negotiations are going to be a slow," said one buyer who spoke on condition on anonymity.

But Mike Shaw, ABC sales president, said, "Advertising during slow economic times in the long run will be much cheaper for clients than letting their market share slide and trying to spend enough dollars to bring it back later." Shaw acknowledged talking with media agencies about deals: "If we wanted to go out and do some deals we could." The fact that he hasn't means there's no agreement yet on pricing.

"We have been having meetings with various agencies and clients," Jo Ann Ross, CBS sales president agreed. "But we have a number [price level] before we start doing deals.