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Fox Broadcasting upfront advertising sales approach $2 billion

June 2, 2011 |  2:44 pm

Fox Broadcasting, which ended the TV season once again as the No. 1 network among viewers ages 18 to 49, has sold the bulk of its commercial inventory for the upcoming television season, achieving rate hikes of about 10% over last year's prices.

SimonCowell "With the strength and stability of our schedule and the exciting addition of 'The X Factor' and our other new series, Fox has concluded its prime-time upfront sales, achieving significant growth in both volume and pricing, consistent with our position as the No. 1 network," Fox said in a statement Thursday. The sale of ads in advance of the fall TV season is known in the media industry as the upfront market.

The network's total volume is about 10% higher than last year, when the News Corp.-owned network secured advertiser commitments worth $1.8 billion to $1.9 billion, according to people familiar with the negotiations. That would put the network's total haul for the 2011-12 season at nearly $2 billion.

Fox is the first network to finish selling its prime-time commercial inventory.  Sales have been significantly slower for the other major broadcast networks: ABC, CBS and NBC.  Some Fox rivals privately have been grousing that Fox "left money on the table" by not pressing for more substantial rate increases.

CBS, for example, has been holding out for rate hikes of as much as 18%, according to a person familiar with CBS' strategy.  CBS is the most-watched network as measured by overall viewership.  At an analyst conference early Thursday, CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves expressed confidence that CBS' stable schedule would eventually fetch significant commitments from advertisers.

"We're in a position of strength," Moonves said.

The major broadcast networks typically sell the bulk of their commercial inventory for the upcoming season in late May and June after unveiling their new entertainment schedules.  During the last two weeks, Fox sold about 80% of its prime-time inventory for the TV season that begins in late September.  Several key advertising categories, including Hollywood movie studios, telephone and technology companies, and retailers helped to establish the strong sales pace, said one person familiar with the process.

The robust TV advertising market is a bright spot in a week full of uncertain economic news.

Television's upfront ad market usually represents more than half of the sales for the major networks for the upcoming season, or about $9 billion in advanced prime-time commercial spending. Advertisers are encouraged to order the time "upfront," or in advance, of the TV season rather than risk paying even higher rates later in the year.

Fox normally sells out early because it does particularly well among younger viewers, those most desired by advertisers. In addition, Fox programs just 15 hours a week in prime-time.  CBS, ABC and NBC each program 22 hours of prime-time shows a week, including the 10 p.m. hour.  In contrast, Fox gives the 10 p.m. hour to its television station affiliates, which typically fill the hour with local news.

-- Meg James

Photo of Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell, judges on Cowell's new show, "The X Factor," which is slated for Fox's fall schedule. Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images

 

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