Fox Wraps Upfront Negotiations

The network is down 10 percent compared to last year's haul of $1.9 billion thanks to a 22 percent primetime ratings decline.

On Wednesday, Fox became the third broadcast network to essentially finish writing its upfront business for the 2013-14 season.  

The network, which finished the season second in the 18-49 demographic, secured lower CPM (cost per thousand viewers) increases this season, in the 5-7 percent range on 80 percent of its primetime entertainment inventory for next season. But with fewer GRP's (gross ratings points) to sell after a 22 percent ratings decline in primetime last season, Fox is down 10 percent in volume to about $1.7 billion compared to last year's $1.9 billion. 

CBS and the CW, which completed negotiations last week, are flat year-over-year in dollar volume. But flat is the new up in an era of myriad entertainment choices and delivery systems that continue to chip away at the broadcast networks’ dominance. And so far at least, the upfront is defying some analysts more dire predictions that the English-language broadcast nets would take a nose dive compared to the 2012-13 season.

Last season, Fox secured CPM increases between 8-9 percent while the network saw an 11 percent jump the year before. Fox sells 15 hours of primetime each week compared to 22 at CBS, ABC and NBC, while the CW has ten hours.

Fox’s second-place finish last season was in large part due to the double digit ratings erosion of American Idol and could not be completely ameliorated by one of the few new hits of the season in the Kevin Bacon-James Purefoy drama The Following. Meanwhile CBS took a landmark demo win -- even without this year’s Super Bowl factored in -- finishing first in the 18-49 demographic for the first time in 21 years. NBC was third and ABC -- which also saw previously reliable unscripted franchise Dancing with the Stars continue to show its age -- finished fourth.

So far, CBS has secured the highest CPM increases, about 7.5 percent on average with $2.65 billion in dollar volume. But Fox, which has next season’s Super Bowl, reaches a young male demographic (especially with its Sunday night animation block), that advertisers covet. And after several female-fronted shows broke through in the past few development cycles (New Girl, The Mindy Project), the network’s offerings for next season are decidedly male-focused. Virtually all of the network's comedies have male leads, including the Army buddy sitcom Enlisted; Brooklyn Nine-Nine starring Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher; the Seth MacFarlane-produced comedy Dads and the Christopher Meloni-headlined Surviving Jack. 

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