The network -- a joint venture between CBS Corp. and Warner Bros. Entertainment -- on Tuesday completed its sales of commercial time during the TV industry's annual dance with advertisers known as the spring "upfront" sales bazaar.
The network sold more than 75% of its commercial inventory for the upcoming TV season, garnering $400 million to $420 million in advertiser commitments, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiations.
The network's haul was roughly 10% more than a year ago -- a boon for the 5-year-old venture that has yet to turn a profit. Still, the CW consistently has been able to capitalize on advertisers' optimism about its new fall lineup and its youthful audience. The network negotiated rate increases of about 11% over 2010 prices, the knowledgeable person said.
Despite its more narrow reach, advertisers buy time on the CW because its viewers are primarily adults aged 18 to 34 and considered to be trendsetters and heavy moviegoers. Advertisers also have experimented by inserting their messages in CW's online platforms to get a better understanding of what sells with Generation X and millennials.
For example, the CW increased the number of commercials that run during online streams of episodes to equal the number of ads that appear on TV. Instead of seeing a drop-off in online viewing, network executives have told advertisers that the number of unique visitors who watch full episodes online increased 55% during the last season over the 2009-10 season.
The CW is launching four shows this fall, including "Ringer," featuring Sarah Michelle Gellar of "Buffy" fame in a mysterious life-swapping plot involving twin sisters. There is "Hart of Dixie," starring Rachel Bilson of "The O.C." as a snotty New York medical intern who takes over a private practice in small-town Alabama, and an unscripted show, "H8R," which allows everyday people to confront celebrities they dislike such as Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi from MTV's "Jersey Shore."
The CW programs 10 hours a week in prime time.
Last week, Fox set the tone for the broadcast ad market by negotiating rate increases of about 10%. Fox, which sold nearly $2 billion in commercial time, accepted lower rate hikes than its rivals had hoped for -- undercutting their negotiations.
ABC has been steadily selling its inventory, fetching rate increases of 10% to 11%, and should complete its sales by the end of the week, according to a person familiar with ABC's sales. Fourth-place NBC is midway through its sales, fetching 9% hikes over last year's prices. The most watched network, CBS -- which had hoped for 18% increases -- also is moving inventory.
-- Meg James
Photo: Sarah Michelle Gellar stars in "Ringer." Credit: The CW