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ABC wraps up advanced advertising sales, generating more than $2.2 billion in prime-time

Walt Disney Co.'s ABC network on Thursday wrapped up its advance advertising sales, generating rate increases of 11% to 12% over last year's prices.

ABC, which finished the 2010-2011 season in third place in prime-time, is hoping to deliver a stronger season of scripted shows to help support its juggernaut hit "Dancing with the Stars" and augment its popular comedies "Modern Family" and "The Middle."  In recent years, the network has experienced audience declines as its soapy dramas "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy" have gotten older and lost viewers.

The network took in advertising commitments that exceeded its total last year of $2.2 billion in commercial sales for prime-time shows, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.     

"Buoyed by a strong response from advertisers to a schedule that was equal parts stability and ambition ... ABC has concluded its upfront negotiations, achieving significant increases in pricing," ABC said in a statement announcing the end of its upfront sales. "This positive response helped drive great volume across the board, and across all dayparts, and reinforced the confidence that national advertisers have in the power of ABC.”

Fox and the CW have already wrapped up their advertising sales, and CBS and NBC are winding down their negotiations and should conclude by week's end.  The so-called upfront advertising market is the period in June when the networks sell more than three-quarters of their commercial inventory for the upcoming television season. 

However, despite fetching double-digit rate increases, the networks have not garnered a commensurate boost in total ad dollars. That is because their programs have been delivering lower ratings in the key demographic of 18- to 49-year-old viewers, and the price that advertisers pay for the commercial time correlates to the ratings generated by the programs.

-- Meg James

 
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