NBC Limps Toward the Upfronts Finishing Line

22 June 2005

Lagging the upfront frontrunners ABC, CBS and Fox, former champion NBC is this week nearing the finishing line with estimated primetime advertising commitments slightly north of $1.9 billion (€1.56bn; £1.04bn).

Supplementing that total is another $100 million of Winter Olympics primetime. Even so, the fallen champ is some $900m down on last year's upfront ritual.

Furthermore, although in revenue terms it is not so very far behind industry leader ABC (which notched around $2.1bn), word on Madison Avenue is that NBC had been forced to trim its costs-per-thousand in order to secure the sales.

NBC executives refused to comment on the situation, although speculation has it that the network sold only slightly more than 70% of its total prime time ad inventory, down year-on-year by about 10%.

AdWeek, however, quotes a senior NBC mole who insists the network did well considering its ratings humiliation (fourth among the Big Four) in the 18-49 demographic during the winter/spring season.

Quoth the mole: "[Outsiders] seem to be more surprised about our total than we were. We were not the market leader, we were the number four network, ABC was 10% cheaper than we were, and we still took in close to $2 billion. Buyers still bet on us, but we didn't have enough rating points to bring in that much more volume."

It is, of course, wholly in the spirit of this ancient (and ageing) ritual that nobody - buyers or sellers - ever loses.

Data sourced from AdWeek (USA); additional content by WARC staff