June 10, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem


BROADCAST UPFRONT DONE.  Broadcasting & Cable reports that the broadcast upfront market is finished with sales exceeding $8.6 billion for ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and CW.  Other reports have the total haul over $9 billion.  You can guarantee that network sources are placing the commitments north of $9 billion and that agency sources are giving the lower figure.  But what’s a few hundred million dollars between friends?  Let’s meet in the middle and call it a $9 billion market. 
CBS was the most aggressive with price — asking for 18% CPM increases and settling for 13-15% increases, according to reports.  ABC got 11% CPM increases, and NBC received 9% price gains.  As previously reported, FOX finished its sales first with a 10% price increase.  In our last upfront update, we said CBS would settle for 15% price increases — on the high end of what ultimately happened but not a bad forecast.
FROM THE PAST FEW DAYS…No big surprise that Laurence Fishburne is leaving CSI.  We don’t expect a change in our forecast rating for CSI Wednesdays at 10 in the fall.  If he were an original cast member, his departure would signal a ratings downgrade.  But his TBD replacement will, in all probability, carry the show on the same, slowly declining ratings track.  The real damage was done when Fishburne replaced William Peterson in 2008.  If you want to see the forecast ratings for any day of the week, visit THE SKED page, where you will also see a guide to all of Mitch Salem’s TV pilot reviews. 

Olympics to NBC…The Town fully expected Comcast to low-ball its Olympic bid in Switzerland.  Speculation was that longtime sports chairman Dick Ebersol left because the new owners weren’t going to aggressively go after the Games.  But then ComcastNBCUniversal walked away with the next four Olympic Games, reportedly bidding $1 billion more than Fox.  DisneyESPNABC barely stuck its toe in the water, surprisingly only bidding on the next two Games.  So what gives?  Clearly, Comcast is willing to continue the Olympic tradition on NBC, eager to make Versus work by putting sports programming on the channel that people actually want to watch, and committed to using internet and mobile platforms to provide live coverage (especially in ratings-challenged European and Asian-hosted Games).  How will they make it work financially?  Perhaps slashing production costs (a very significant addition to the billions in rights fees) even more and relying on more host-broadcaster feeds.  On the revenue side, they will certainly extract higher subscriber fees for Versus from distributors.  To maximize those fees, imagine a top-tier event like snowboarding (younger and male) airing in prime on Versus, while NBC broadcasts ice skating (older and female).  In any case, it’s fair to say that the approach to the Olympic Games will be bold and ever-evolving to make the multi-billion dollar bet work. 

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."