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'02 Network Sales Up 8.3%

Stick a fork in it: First-quarter network scatter is done. And the second quarter is going pretty fast at rates well into the double digits above upfront pricing.

MindShare President/CEO Marc Goldstein reports that broadcast networks are "virtually sold out for the rest of first quarter. Indeed, almost all network dayparts are pretty much sold out," with only "some" openings remaining in second quarter.

While demand is strong, Gary Carr, director of national broadcast, Media First International (Burger King), notes that poor ratings have also played a role in tightening the market.

"Except for CBS, network ratings are down," Carr says, "and networks have to pay back their guarantees [via make-goods], which means there's less inventory to sell." As for NBC's hold on adults 18-49, research from Magna Global indicates that it's down to a single share point season-to-date. (And looking at the February sweeps, it's gone: Fox won the demo.)

Full-year 2002 advertising gains for the Big Four networks illustrate the strength of the market. According to Nielsen Monitor Plus, network-TV ad revenues were up 8.3% last year over 2001 ($19.8 billion vs. $18.3 billion).

Prime time took the lion's share of that, with $11 billion. Daytime followed with $3.4 billion. Late-night raked in $976.3 million while early-morning collected $847.2 million. The overnight tally was $650.3 million.

Meanwhile, an automotive-agency insider insists, despite negative sales in January, "we're not going to react to a one-month change. We'll stay the course." Zero financing might be tweaked, but "other incentives" will continue.