The runners in the annual spring upfronts stakes are now spaced out across the course, with Walt Disney Company's ABC leading the field by several lengths having secured buyers for all its upfront inventory. The deals were struck at an average cost-per-thousand rate increase of between 5-6%.

As at the halfway bell on Friday the other network nags were running as follows ...

  • Viacom's CBS has sold around one-third of its inventory, likewise its sibling network UPN - both negotiating prices around 4-5% up on last year.

  • The WB network has also received commitments for around 33% of its available slots at a "positive cost-per thousand" thanks to a stabilization of its ratings decline earlier this season. Rate increases are thought to be in the 2-3% range.

  • Fox reports early deals struck at increases between 3-4%, although the amount of business written was not revealed.

  • Former upfront champ NBC continues to limp badly after failing to reverse its ratings shortfall. It has reportedly written zero business as yet, largely due to the hard line on price adopted by agency negotiators. One anonymous media agency executive predicts the ailing network will have to cut its rates to make any headway.
But although a clear winner has been declared in the case of ABC, for the other nags the race is far from over - the only certainty being a widespread belief that the ancient upfront ritual itself has run its course and is ready to be put out to grass.

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