CW Completes Upfront Sales

Gossip Girl Finale Season 5 Return of the Ring - H 2012
The CW

Gossip Girl Finale Season 5 Return of the Ring - H 2012

The network moved 75 percent of its 2012-13 season inventory for commitments close to $400 million.

NEW YORK -- The CW has become the first broadcast network to close 2012-13 upfront sales moving 75 percent of its inventory, according to network sources. The CW’s primetime ratings saw double-digit year-over-year declines last season, but the network wrote close to $400 million in sponsor commitments for a schedule of well-received new shows including Arrow and Emily Owens, MD and returning series including the final season of Gossip Girl.

Additionally, CW – a co-venture between CBS Corp. and Warner Bros. – boosted its CPM (cost per thousand viewers) rates by 7 percent with strong demand in retail and wireless categories.

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Last year, CW wrote between $400-420 million in upfront commitments that stressed a unified TV-online model. This is the second year CW has sold its convergence media buy and the first year the network is also selling inventory on its mobile app for iPad, iPhone and Android. The app, which streams full episodes of CW shows and also includes social media integrations with Facebook and Twitter, has already been downloaded 1.1 million times. The convergence sell -- including some mobile inventory -- helped CW offset what could have been steeper upfront declines given its ratings performance.

Analysts expected upfront revenue to rise slightly this season thanks to the continued economic recovery and increased demand. Last year’s broadcast take was just over $9 billion and this year analysts have predicted a total haul between $9.2-9.5 billion. But auto spending was a factor in many of those calculations. In what has become a major narrative of the upfront season, GM is asking for significant (up to 20 percent) rollbacks on pricing. Broadcasters are predictably balking at swallowing such cuts.

At $1.1 billion, GM was the third-biggest spender on TV advertising in 2011, behind Procter & Gamble and AT&T. The CW – which like Fox has less airtime to sell than ABC, CBS and NBC – has not done significant business with GM in the past and did not sell any inventory to the automaker this year.

But the impasse with GM – which has already ceased advertising on Facebook and has said it won’t buy a spot in next year’s Super Bowl – could cause other networks to make less of their inventory available in the upfront.

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