Cable Upfront Hits Price Impasse

New York— Dealmaking in the cable-network upfront marketplace slowed down last week from the frenetic pace of the market's first two weeks, advertising executives say. Magna Global, the single biggest buyer, was said to be taking a long, hard look and holding out for better prices than most sellers were willing to give. Magna was said to have done few, if any deals with major networks, although that couldn't be confirmed with the agency. The overall market is said to be about 50% complete, with the hope it will wrap before July 4. Some of the bigger players were nearly finished last week. At press time, USA and Sci Fi (Universal) were 97% finished and negotiating with Magna. Others, such as FX and Court TV were roughly 50% complete. "There's really an impasse now over price," says Fox Cable's Bruce Lefkowitz, who added that he wouldn't be surprised to see $100 million or more redirected to scatter because buyers can't get their price. "It's become more deliberate," said Court TV's Charlie Collier, "but there is no need for this market to move overnight."

Starz! Eyeing High-Definition

Chicago— Starz! Encore Group is expected to unveil plans for high-definition service at a Monday-morning press conference at The National Show. Starz! officials were mum on the subject, but speculation has it that the net will launch at least two HD channels. It would be a change in direction for Chairman John Sie, who in the past has been unenthusiastic about HD.

Universal Execs Start Company

Los Angeles— Sarah Timberman, president of programming for Universal Network Television, is leaving to start her own production company, 25C Productions at Warner Bros. Going with Timberman is Senior Vice President of Drama Programming Carl Beverly.