Upfront in `full throttle'

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The network upfront -- in which networks sell blocks of commercial time in
their fall schedules -- is at "full throttle," one source involved put it
Wednesday.

Industry estimates now put the total network prime-time upfront take at
$8.7 billion $8.9 billion. That would be a 7% to 10% increase over last
year.

ABC, NBC and Fox are said to be well under way and expect to be in mop-up
mode by the end of the week.

Sources said CBS, by design, held back but was expected to get under way
Wednesday afternoon and will likely be nearly finished by week's end.

"There's a lot more money out there than anyone expected," one source said.
Two networks reported writing business at rates 14% to 15% above last
year.

That's higher than most of the majors thought they'd be getting.

Only CBS was predicting 15% to 20% rate gains over a year ago.

Sources said NBC is commanding rate hikes in the 15% to 16%
range above last year.

Sources said The WB Television Network was well over halfway done with its upfront selling by
Wednesday afternoon.

Those sources also indicated that the network would wrap things by Thursday and
expected to reap more than $700 million in spending commitments at rate hikes in
the 22% to 23% range.

Last year, the network pulled in about $575 million in upfront business.

Sources also said Turner Broadcasting System Inc. started doing business Wednesday.

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