The ritualized annual skirmish among the major US television networks to grab advertising dollars for the fall-winter season has seen frontrunnerABC emerging as uncontested winner.

The Walt Disney Company-owned broadcaster says it has notched around $2.1 billion (€1.7bn; £1.15bn) in "upfront" commitment from advertisers to its 2005/2006 shows. Last year's figure was $1.6bn.

The network has cashed-in on the success of its ratings winners Desperate Housewives, Lost and Grey's Anatomy, all of which return to America's screens in the fall.

Says Mike Shaw, ABC's president of sales and marketing: "The response to and desire for those was huge." The price for a commercial spot during Desperate Housewives has doubled to around $315,000 for the coming season.

ABC has sold between 78% and 83% of its primetime schedule, a little higher than the 75% to 80% sold in last year's upfront sale.

The broadcaster's strategy of moving quickly and not holding out for higher prices may have surprised some observers, but Shaw ripostes: "In discussions with customers we read the marketplace and the total spending the marketplace was able to support."

In other words, the market is likely to remain flat or rise only slightly and it's better to take in 30% extra revenue now.

The other networks are still in various stages of dealmaking, with CBS having sold around half of its upfront commercial time. NBC, which this season finished bottom of the network ratings league, is finding agencies reluctant to pay any more for its commercial spots and is still "in discussions".

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff