Although the US annual US upfront stakes has been comfortably won by Walt Disney's ABC [WAMN: 02-Jun-05], all eyes are on the nags racing for second and third places.

Coming up fast on the rails are Viacom's CBS and News Corporation's Fox, both claiming to have squeezed cost-per-thousand price increases of between 4% and 6% in upfront ad sales for the fall season.

Their success, together with that of ABC, is evidence that the TV advertising sales market is in a far more robust state of health than predicted by analysts and industry clairvoyants.

Jo Ann Ross, president of sales at CBS says she expects to write somewhere between $2.5 billion (€2.04bn; £1.38bn) and $2.6bn of committed business. This compares year-on-year with $2.4bn. CBS sibling UPN is still touting for business but, Ross claims, is securing increases in the same range as it larger sister

A Fox insider reports it anticipates writing upfront business in the region of $1.6bn - a flattish figure compared with last year, albeit at a higher CPM than the 2004 season.

Meantime, General Electric's NBC, languishing in its unaccustomed ratings position of number four amongst the big four networks, has reportedly caved-in to demands for lower prices in order to kickstart sales.

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