Silverman: Upfront not as bad as it seems

NBC Entertainment chief expects less than 10% decline

The upfronts aren't as bad as predicted, NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios co-chairman Ben Silverman said Wednesday, adding that he is seeing declines in the volume of ads sold but not a drop-off in CPMs.

"Broadcast is definitely challenged; the cable model is a much better model," he said, noting the latter's dual revenue stream.

That said, he predicted that upfronts will decline by less than 10%, with many businesses that are on the sidelines returning for the scatter market.

Speaking at Fortune magazine's Brainstorm: Tech conference, Silverman said he expects carmakers to buy advertising in a big way again. "We're all -- collectively, in the broadcast business -- playing for that return."

He said NBC was close to striking a deal with Group M, and he spoke of the recent closing of a deal with McDonald's. The fast-food chain will advertise its Monopoly game on "The Jay Leno Show," "Sunday Night Football" and other programs.

Silverman was part of a panel discussion that included Marvel Studios chairman David Maisel and Sony Entertainment chief strategy officer Robert Wiesenthal.

Wiesenthal talked up Internet-connected TVs that serve customized ads and tell viewers what shows your friends and children are tuning in to. "It's going to be very interesting to see how consumers react," he said.

Maisel acknowledged that the Internet is a great tool for reaching its fans but said that Marvel having its best five years ever doesn't owe solely to technology. He said it has more to do with "taking control of our own destiny" with the creation of a film studio.
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