Sluggish 2Q for Network


The broadcast networks are selling ads, but prices are flat to slightly up versus the upfront. That's not very robust. Still, buyers say, it's better than the first quarter.

"Broadcasting is taking in dollars," says Annette Cerbone, SVP/ director of national broadcast, Universal McCann. "NBC is doing well, especially with [buys for] May," when the hit show Friends
will end its 10-year run. "And CBS also is really strong, in particular with CSI. But we're only seeing a moderate bump" in the scatter price. ABC, Fox, and The WB aren't faring so well, she adds. "The money's not going there."

OMD Media Director Ray Warren agrees: "Pacing for second quarter is slow, but the inventory is there. The networks have a real problem with ratings. ABC and WB are down double digits," he adds, "so they owe a lot. CBS is probably the best off, but all the networks ratings are down."

Categories spending scatter dollars include retail, movie studios, some wireless companies, and some car companies. A major packaged-goods advertiser says his second-quarter spending is "slightly up. We took some options and replaced them elsewhere along with some additional incremental money."

A major automotive advertiser weighs in on ongoing complaints about the current upfront: It's got to change. "The kids upfront changed all over the place going from February to May," the ad buyer insists. "And cable has always had a free-flowing upfront. In the end, it's all about the clients' money, and they should dictate."

Everyone agrees a calendar-year upfront makes sense, but clients have to agree not to move money earlier, says a packaged-goods advertiser. Says an agency buyer, "We negotiate with the networks, but we compete against each other."