NEW YORK: WPP Group's media-buying arm GroupM has inked an estimated $900 million (€676m; £457m) deal with US television giant NBC Universal in the first of this year's up-front advertising agreements.

The usually frenzied annual airtime sales have had a slow start because of the introduction of Nielsen Media Research's controversial commercial ratings [WARC News: 04-Jun-07].

The NBC agreement is based on live-plus-three ratings for ads that were watched via DVRs up to three days after they aired live. The old formula for calculating ratings was based solely on the numbers of viewers who watched the shows live, not the ads.

GroupM has agreed to buy airtime across a swathe of NBC's channels, including its cable divisions, Spanish-language network and digital outlets, for marketers such as Unilever, Sprint Nextel, Volkswagen and Nokia. However, neither party was willing to discuss the finances of the deal.

TV networks, under pressure from ad-skipping technologies and the rise of online advertising, are trying to reverse a two-year slide in total upfront dollars. Last year, they took in around $9bn.

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