NEW YORK: Network TV's annual 'upfront' advertising salesfest appears to have withstood both the nation's general economic gloom and a 10% slide in ratings – at least for now.

NBC has claimed first place in the race to sell inventory for the fall season and says it has notched $1.9 billion (€1.2bn; £971m), an increase of $100 million over last year's figure.

Media buyers say the broadcaster's primetime prices averaged around 5% higher, while some of the other dayparts, particularly mornings, were still more.

Although the amount of ad dollars committed by advertisers was in the same range as last year's event, NBC sold around 80% of its available inventory, some 4% up on 2007.

The result limits its exposure in an uncertain economy to the 'scatter market' when airtime is bought nearer to a show's transmission date.

The downside, however, is that it leaves the broadcaster exposed to a shrinkage of spend later in the year.

Some industry analysts believe this is inevitable as the major networks struggle to keep audiences, and advertisers migrate their dollars to high-end cable networks, where viewing figures are on the up.

Meantime, the networks are making hay while the sun weakly shines. NewsCorp's Fox TV, Walt Disney's ABC and CBS are selling ad inventory for next season at rates 6% to 10% up on last year.

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