ABC grabs first upfront deals

Fox close to inking deals, sources say

ABC has done the first deals of the broadcast primetime upfront, reaching agreements with media agencies Starcom and Zenith Media, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Mediaweek has learned that the deals garnered ABC an average of between 8%-10% cost-per-thousand rate increases for its primetime inventory.

The dollar value of the deals with each media agency could not be determined, though sources said it was a significant amount of business placed by each agency, not just for a couple of clients.

Neither of the agencies nor ABC would comment on any business conducted.

Sources said Fox is also close to doing some upfront deals, while NBC is trying to hammer out a deal with GroupM, the media agency conglomerate that started last year's upfront marketplace with NBC. All parties involved in those negotiations also declined comment.

In its negotiations with Starcom and Zenith, ABC reportedly opened its negotiations seeking low-double-digit percent CPM increases for primetime inventory, sources said. The percentages eventually agreed to are averages, since different shows sell at different values, depending on their ratings.

Zenith and Starcom have major movie companies as clients, and movie studios traditionally like to get their money down in the marketplace for Thursday night programming, a key night to reach consumers before the weekend. Sources said movie clients across all agencies were getting antsy about getting their dollars placed.

Zenith does buying for Twentieth Century Fox Filmed Entertainment. Among Zenith's other clients are Toyota, Verizon, General Mills, Nestle and Astra Zenica.

Starcom does media buying for Walt Disney Studios, and is the media agency for the Walt Disney Co., which is also the parent company of ABC. Starcom also recently did a minor $10 million upfront deal with cable network Hallmark, which also is a Starcom client. Starcom's other clients such iinclude Kellogg's, Allstate and Best Buy.

The first broadcast deal in last year's upfront was not agreed to until the second week in June.

Both ABC and Fox were expected to be the networks receiving the most demand in the upfront because each has what advertisers perceive to be hot shows with younger skewing audiences. ABC was winning the ratings battle among the 18-49 demo at the start of last season, before the WGA strike. And Fox counts "House," "24" and "American Idol" among its strongest show, and got positive media buyer feedback for its slate of new shows "Fringe" and "The Dollhouse."