The battle of wills between US television networks and advertising agencies over upfront sales and 'live only' ratings appears to have swung in Madison Avenue's favor.

The annual ritual of buying commercial airtime for the fall TV season has been bogged down in the networks' proposal to price airtime with a premium for the number of viewers who watch on digital video recorders.

But advertisers have dug in their heels and refused to play or pay, concerned at the rate of ad-skipping with DVR technology.

Marketers' hard line has forced broadcasters to climb down from their high horses. Walt Disney-owned ABC says it is now prepared to charge marketers only for viewers who watch programs when they are aired.

The other networks have also softened their approach, although they remain reluctant to comment.

ABC stresses, however, that the issue has not gone away. In a statement the network insists it "continues to believe strongly in the worth of the 'Live Plus' viewer, and will continue its efforts to include this audience."

Comments Ed Gentner, svp at media buyer MediaVest: "There is some value in DVR exposure but we don't have enough data to really know exactly what the value is. Until we can quantify with certainty what that value is, no one wants to pay up for it."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff