$1 bil upfront deal for NBC Uni, Group M

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NEW YORK -- NBC Universal struck first in the 2007-08 upfront with a nearly $1 billion deal with Group M that includes all of NBC Uni's broadcast, cable and new-media platforms.

Sources said the deal was struck on the basis of live plus three days of commercial ratings data, which networks and agencies had been talking about as this year's currency compared with the program ratings that have ruled TV for so long. Wednesday's deal is not only the first wide-ranging deal of the upfront season but also the first big TV deal that involves the new currency. The question remains whether it will be the start of a flood of live plus three days deals. There were other indications that the networks and agencies had reached agreement on the currency, which could speed along the upfront's pace.

The deal was said to include NBC, Telemundo, USA Network, Sci Fi Channel, Bravo plus digital and branded content and product integration. It involved most but not all of Group M's clients, with the media-buying conglomerate handling the purchase of inventory for multiple companies. Between Mindshare, mediaedge:cia and Mediacom, the deal includes Unilever, Burger King, IBM, Sprint, Paramount, Cingular, Volkswagen, Audi, Warner Bros. and Nokia.

Sources declined to discuss CPMs for any of the network deals. After several years of declines at NBC and the recent departure of NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly, it wasn't likely that the network could convince Madison Avenue for much, if anything, in the way of CPM increases. One upfront observer suggested that NBC, which has had its share of upfront misfortunes during the past few years, was more anxious about making a deal than such other networks as Fox and ABC that could afford to be tougher negotiators.

Other networks and media agencies reported they were in discussions but disclosed no specific deals.

Wednesday's deal was the first significant upfront deal for the new NBC Uni sales team led by Mike Pilot, who took over late last year with the departure of longtime ad sales chief Keith Turner. It also was under the supervision of Group M buying chief Rino Scanzoni, who was a driving force behind commercial ratings.

It wasn't the only deal NBC announced Wednesday. NBC said it had reached a deal with Nissan North America and media buyer OMD for a multiplatform deal surrounding "Heroes." Nissan will market its new Nissan Rogue vehicle with an exclusive sponsorship of the Season 2 premiere of "Heroes." The Rogue will be product placed into the show and driven by a character, the network said. It also will be on NBC Rewind and sponsor of the Season 1 DVD release, a "Heroes" music video and efforts on NBC's "Heroes" Web platforms.
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