Cable deals in live-plus-3

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NEW YORK -- The cable upfront started moving into full swing, with some cable channels striking deals involving the new live-plus-three-day commercial ratings.

Lifetime reported about 50% of its upfront negotiations had been done, with a big deal involving commercial ratings with Group M struck last week.

"We're seeing the marketplace as very strong, and the currency people are talking about is C3," said John Matluck, senior vp advertising sales at Lifetime. Lifetime has seen CPM increases in the high single digits with strong categories including pharmaceuticals, packaged goods, retail and the movie sector.

Lifetime was buoyed by the strong premiere of "Army Wives" plus the upcoming July 15 premieres of "State of Mind" and "Side Order of Life," two other original series. "It really helped us to have that success before the upfront," said Rick Basso, senior vp pricing and planning at Lifetime.

Meanwhile, TNT and TBS were going to the marketplace with momentum from its original series as well as acquired series. They also said Tuesday that it would offer single sponsorship of its primetime movies 52 weeks a year, giving an advertiser category exclusivity for a premium. Each single-sponsor movie would cut commercial load from 18-20 minutes per hour to 9-10 minutes an hour for two hours, according to Turner Entertainment's executive vp sales and marketing Linda Yaccarino.

Yaccarino said that viewers and advertisers were attracted to the environment that shows the movies as closer to the cinematic experience in that there would be fewer interruptions. It grows out of a test last year with Chase sponsoring limited commercial interruption of the Tom Hanks drama "Castaway" on TNT.

"We had a terrific experience on the ratings, retention and recall," she said.

The single-sponsor movies would start in the fourth quarter and include such movies as the "Lord of the Rings" series and "School of Rock," among others.

"We're talking about really recognizable titles," Yaccarino said.

Some of the cable networks are going slower, with budgets being registered and agencies and networks talking. Volume is likely to be pretty good, and pricing, too, sources say.

The broadcast and cable upfronts got started together three weeks ago with a big deal between Group M and NBC Universal that included broadcast and cable TV and made live-plus-three commercial ratings the overwhelming metric. NBC Uni followed up that deal with another agreement with another big buyer, though NBC Uni wouldn't comment on specifics.

But not everyone in the cable industry will be reaching deals with advertisers involving the new live-plus-three commercial ratings metric. While some deals have been made and others will be, the situation is a bit more complicated when it comes to cable. Broadcasters who lost ratings in commercial pods were able to make it back in live-plus-three-day playback. The cable industry, however, is losing about 7%-8% of its ratings in commercial retention overall and doesn't get the playback, according to a cable industry executive who asked not to be named.

Not that the executive is bearish on cable.

"I think the money is there, the economy is doing pretty well, and this year when you talk about demand, it was pretty good," the executive said.
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