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CW's prime-time ad sales plummet

June 07, 2008|Meg James | Times Staff Writer

The struggling youth-oriented CW, reflecting its entrenchment after a bruising season, said Friday that it had sold nearly $375 million in prime-time advertising for next season, about 40% less than it did last year.

In 2007, the network sold about $600 million in ads during the "upfront" market, when the broadcasters sell the bulk of their commercial inventory. This year's total was lower, in large measure because the CW plans to field only 10 hours a week of programming -- five fewer hours than in the just-completed season.

Ratings at the 2-year-old CW, which has failed to get traction with new shows, plunged 23% from last year during the just-concluded TV season. CW, a joint venture between CBS Corp. and Warner Bros., is no longer producing shows for Sundays, instead farming out that night to independent firm Media Rights Capital.

In addition, CW and World Wrestling Entertainment ended their partnership, which means the popular "Smackdown" will no longer be around to give the network a ratings lift.

Nonetheless, CW was able to boost its upfront ad rates about 8% over last year's prices, according to a network executive who did not want to be identified discussing financial information.

The national TV ad market appears to be stronger than what some analysts and even TV executives had anticipated even a month ago. On Thursday, NBC surprised many when it disclosed that it had sold $1.9 billion in commercial time for its new fall season, a marginal increase despite the network's lower ratings.

CW's ability to hike rates after such a difficult year points to the premium that marketers are still willing to pay to reach elusive younger viewers.

Key advertisers, including movie studios, beauty product makers and cellphone companies, are betting on CW's remake of the 1990s Fox hit "Beverly Hills 90210" to increase the network's ratings. CW also hopes its cult hit "Gossip Girl," about wealthy New York teenagers, will build momentum.


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