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Fox Completes Upfront - Broadcasting & Cable

Fox Completes Upfront

Talks with other nets stall over prices
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Moonves Still Seeks 'Strong Double-Digit' Upfront Growth

Fox on Thursday said that it had concluded its primetime upfront advertising sales, but buyers were taking their time with the other broadcast networks.

Fox said in a statement that by adding the new competition show The X Factor to a strong and stable schedule, it was able to achieve "significant growth in both volume and pricing, consistent with our position as the number one network."

Sources indicated that prices on a cost per thousand viewers (CPM) basis were up 10% to 11%, and that the volume of its sales commitments also rose by about 10% to nearly $2 billion. They estimated that Fox sold about 80% of its inventory upfront, about the same as last year.

CBS is looking for much larger increases and buyers appear to be balking for now. CBS CEO Les Moonves on Thursday told an investor conference that CBS will wait until buyers are willing to pay price increases in the "mid-double digit range," meaning in the mid-teens. "We're not going to sell at 9 or 10%," he said. Market sources say CBS sales execs are sticking to their asking price of 18%.

ABC is also looking to do deals in the double-digit range, but buyers said they don't believe that ABC's lineup and ratings performance calls for better increases that Fox got.

If networks stick to their asking price, the upfront market could be drawn out after Fox's fast start. "I can't see any agency going to a double-digit number so quickly," said one buyer.

While talks with the broadcasters stall, media agencies continue to register client budgets with cable networks and with syndicators.

Some syndication deals may be getting done, sources said. With the syndication market being about $2 billion, compared with nearly $9 billion for broadcast and  about $8 billion for cable, it's unlikely that early syndication deal will draw a significant number of dollars that had been earmarked for broadcast or cable.

Some cable networks reported that talks had begun to heat up, but it seems no deals were completed.

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