Karmazin: Cable Upfront Stronger

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The broadcast upfront will be strong, but the cable upfront will be stronger, said Viacom Inc. president and chief operating officer Mel Karmazin at a breakfast hosted by Syracuse University’s Newhouse School earlier this week.

The broadcast upfront will “certainly reach record levels,” but the growth may not be as great as last year because “an awful lot” of advertisers move money from the scatter broadcast market into the upfront last year. But broadcast will not be as “robust” as cable. “There will definitely be a stronger market for cable.”

Karmazin turned the fragmentation argument against broadcasting on its head. The audience is becoming more fragmented due to the Internet, digital cable and PVRs, he said. “But when it comes time to reach the most number of people at the same time, there is no better way than broadcast network television...It is offering advertisers the biggest bargain of their lives.”

Interviewer Ken Auletta sparred with Karmazin over Viacom’s succession plans. But Karmazin gave nothing away. He said he was content in the No. 2 role behind Chairman and CEO Sumner Redstone. He skimmed a list of the Fortune 500, he said. “There was no company I’d rather be at.” He said he told Disney’s dissident shareholders that he was not interested in replacing Michael Eisner atop that company.

Karmazin didn’t mind Auletta’s suggestion that CBS was no longer “the Tiffany Network.” CBS was in last place when it was the Tiffany network, he said. Then added: “I don’t think Tiffany is upscale enough for the new CBS, and I don’t mind saying that because Tiffany is not an advertiser.”

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