CBS Close to Selling Out Upfront Inventory

Tea Leoni in "Madam Secretary"
Tea Leoni in "Madam Secretary"
 Craig Blankenhorn/CBS

CBS is close to selling out its upfront inventory, according to network executives. Sources say the network will be down slightly in volume compared to last year's $2.65 billion in upfront commitments on 80 percent of its primetime entertainment inventory for the 2014-15 TV season.

The network saw its 2013-14 ratings fall double digits among viewers 18-49, still the demographic most coveted by media buyers, finishing third with a 2.4 rating following top-rated NBC and Fox. The latter had the advantage of the Super Bowl. But CBS is still the most-watched network on television and, among the 25-54 demographic, averaging 10.73 million total viewers last season.

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This year, CBS will have several Thursday Night Football games in which to sell sought-after ad time. But those games are not part of the network's current upfront deals. Rather the sports sales team is selling that inventory as part of its overall NFL package, which includes highly-rated Sunday afternoon games. That means CBS has one less night (Thursdays) of inventory to sell in the early part of the season. 

“As we near the finish line, we are very confident that CBS has once again achieved the highest pricing and most total dollars in the upfront marketplace," a network spokesperson said in a statement. 

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The network will bow five new series in the fall including spinoffs CSI: Cyber and NCIS: New Orleans and the Tea Leoni-headlined Madam Secretary. The network also for the first time managed to wring out a significant deal with media buying behemoth GroupM on commercial ratings with seven days of delayed viewing, so-called C7. Currently the industry-wide standard is C3. GroupM, which spends $70 billion in inventory across all media, also has agreed to do primetime upfront deals with the other broadcast networks on C7 instead of C3.

"Agencies and clients continue to value the strength, stability and delivery that we provide as a pure-play broadcaster, and we are very pleased that in addition to C3, C7 is now playing a meaningful part in our negotiations," CBS' statement concluded.

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