CBS Nears Upfront Finish Line

Ratings champ on pace to book $2.65 billion in advance ad sales

After a week of stealthily locking down a flurry of deals with agencies, CBS is on the verge of wrapping its 2013-14 upfront business.

Sources with knowledge of the network’s negotiations said the ratings champ was virtually done writing business for the upcoming broadcast season, and that only one major agency remains outstanding. If that last piece of the puzzle does not fall into place by the end of the day, CBS will almost certainly be finished by Monday afternoon.

As expected, the ever-consistent Tiffany Network commanded the largest premiums, landing average CPM increases of 8 percent. Dollar volume is believed to be consistent with the $2.65 billion CBS booked during last year’s bazaar.

While the final tally remains speculative, sources said that CBS has written advance commitments for at least three-quarters of its prime time ad inventory, leaving the remainder for the scatter market.

The pharmaceutical, technology and financial services categories were particularly strong for CBS.

Across the board, CBS appears to have equaled its performance of a year ago. (In what buyers are characterizing as a down market, flat is the new up.) These results are of a piece with projections made by CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves in early May.

CBS has a lot going for it, including a schedule with few (if any) weak spots—the network in the spring renewed a whopping 20 series—and a commanding lead in total deliveries and the two major demos. Per Nielsen, CBS closed out the 2012-13 broadcast season with an average prime-time delivery of 11.9 million viewers per night, topping runner-up ABC by some 4 million viewers. This marked the largest margin of victory in 24 years.

CBS also cleaned up in the dollar demos, averaging a 2.9 among adults 18-49 and a 3.8 with the 25-54 set. As such, it had more GRPs to sell than ABC, NBC and Fox.

The only other network to fold its upfront tent is the CW, which programs 10 hours of prime time fare each week. Fox is said to be very close to finishing its upfront business, writing CPM hikes between 5 percent and 7 percent, while ABC and NBC are still in the midst of negotiating their pricing. Both have been looking to secure premiums of as much as 8 percent versus last year’s rates, and buyers are pushing back.

Analysts expect that broadcast dollar volume will be down a few ticks from last year’s $9.55 billion take.

Publish date: June 7, 2013 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT