TV’s ‘Upfront’ Ad-Selling Season Closes

TV's 'Upfront' Ad-Selling Season Closes 1Walt Disney Co.’s ABC network said Wednesday it had completed its advance advertising sales for the coming fall season, drawing a close to a tepid “upfront” ad-selling season for major television networks.

Networks sell about 75 percent of their advertising in advance of the fall season and the sales are closely watched by Wall Street as an indicator of advertising demand.

ABC said it pulled in about $2.3 billion in advertising commitments, up from $2.1 billion a year ago. The network was able to convert strong ratings from hits like “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” into price increases of between 3 and 4 percent.

ABC got off to a slow start, starting to sell ads last among the major networks, because of an early standoff it had with advertisers over whether to count ads that are viewed on digital video recorders. ABC eventually gave in.

Other networks had varied performances. Fox, a unit of News Corp., sold around $1.8 billion in advance advertising commitments, up from $1.6 billion last year, riding out its successful “American Idol” franchise, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked to remain unidentified because of the confidential nature of the talks.

But General Electric Co.’s NBC, a laggard in the ratings, had to cut prices by about 5 percent from last year and wound up with an estimated $1.9 billion, roughly comparable with last year, after selling more spots to make up for the weak pricing, a person familiar with the talks said.