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CBS TV Distribution leads the way as upfront take may exceed $2.4 bil

The TV syndication upfront marketplace has all but wrapped, with CBS Television Distribution, which controls about 50% of total syndicated programming inventory, completing its last major deal with GroupM.

Some were speculating that syndicators might have taken in even more than the $2.4 billion total previously projected.

"This was a robust market," one syndication sales executive said. "Demand was strong. There was more dollar volume than last year, and the top 25 shows in syndication got the same cost-per-thousand rate increases the top broadcast primetime shows got."

CBSTD averaged CPM increases in the 6%-7% range, with such higher-end inventory as "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "Dr. Phil," "Judge Judy," "Entertainment Tonight" and "Rachael Ray" averaging 7%-9% hikes.

The game shows "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!" averaged gains of 6%-7%, while off-net sitcoms "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "Frasier" and celebrity entertainment shows "The Insider" and "Inside Edition" averaged 5%-6% hikes.

New talk show entry "The Doctors," a "Dr. Phil" spinoff, was initially a slow sell because CBSTD held firm with its original opening price, sources said. But eventually the syndicator was able to get pricing that was 20% higher than some agencies' initial offers and enjoyed strong sellout levels.

Speaking about the upfront as a whole, one syndie sales exec said: "The agencies came into the negotiations aggressively, but we drew a line in the sand, and they eventually capitulated."

John Consoli is senior editor at Mediaweek.
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