New Net Makes First Upfront Ad Sales

LOS ANGELES The CW jumped into the upfront advertising sales fray Tuesday as the nascent network booked its first advance advertising commitments for its inaugural season, sources said.

Sources said the overall pace of upfront activity picked up yesterday, but not at the frenetic pace that has characterized upfront sales in the recent past. CW, the network rising in the fall out of the ashes of UPN and the WB, is said to be cutting deals at about or slightly higher than the pricing levels that WB booked last year, when that network took in about $650 million in upfront sales.

Sources said CW had particularly strong demand for its new Sunday comedy lineup, anchored by the erstwhile UPN family comedy Everybody Hates Chris. One of UPN’s strongholds had long been its Monday comedy block featuring shows with largely black casts. Those programs were strong magnets for advertisers seeking to reach a highly targeted black demographic, and much of that business has now shifted to CW’s Sunday slate, sources said.

Overall, the broadcast networks are expected to pull in about $9 billion in advance bookings for the 2006-07 season, on par with last year’s upfront haul. The Big Four networks typically book about 75-85 percent of their total advertising inventory for the coming season during the annual postseason sales marathon.

Sources said Fox and CBS were continuing to make significant progress on sales, albeit with modest rate increases compared with last year. ABC was said to be starting to write some business Tuesday after holding out for aggressive rate hikes and for the inclusion of DVR viewing sources in its ratings guarantees [The Hollywood Reporter, June 6]. NBC was said to be on the verge of doing the same in the face of pressure from buyers to hold the line on rate increases or even decreasing slightly from last year.