NBC Universal Wraps Upfront

Ad commitments come in just under $4 billion, say execs, with no breakout for primetime broadcast tallies
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Upfronts 2009: Complete Coverage

NBC Universal is finishing its upfront with a little less than $4 billion in ad revenue commitments under its collective corporate belt, according to executives familiar with the company negotiations. There was no official comment on the number.

Broadcast networks are no longer breaking out figures for their primetime performance, which make up the bulk of ad commitments for the coming season and typically fall in the $9 billion range. On Wednesday, Fox said it had concluded negotiations but declined to say what percentage of inventory it had sold or its final take--usually between $1.5 billion to $2 billion. ABC is also not commenting. CBS is expected to discuss the upfront on its second quarter earnings call Thursday but won't give final numbers.

The $4 billion figure wraps up all dayparts on the network, along with the company's cable networks, digital operations and its Spanish-language broadcast network Telemundo. Primetime, which has been a struggle for the NBC broadcast network, is valued at 20% of the total figure when local and national ads are put together. NBC Universal is unique in having such a wide vantage point in knowing advertiser budgets across the board. The network moved early in the market and was said to be flexible about the kinds of deals it would entertain. Even if advertiser dollars are down year on year, demand for integrations is up on last year.

One executive familiar with negotiations said that NBC's cable entertainment properties beat the market and brought in ad revenue on par with last year, against a cable entertainment market that this person said was 10% down on last year. NBC cable properties include the top-rated USA Network.

The broadcast marketplace, meanwhile, is said to be down some 15-20%. This executive denied that CPM prices could be had cheaper if buyers purchased time on The Jay Leno Show along with their other show pick. Leno was sold on a night-by-night basis, not as a stripped series, and packaged with the flow of the audience on each night.

The Leno show was "the biggest negotiating point" of the NBC upfront, according to executives. In addition to McDonald's, several other advertisers have signed on to do integrations on the former Tonight Show host's new series.

Separately, third quarter scatter, which includes the back-to-school selling period, is on par with first and second quarters, according to executives.

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