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Fox Nears Upfront Finish with NFL Boosting Volume

Fox Networks Group, which is nearly done with its upfront negotiations, has gotten commitments from advertisers to spend significantly more on advertising next season, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The company, which is aiming over the long term to reduce the amount of commercials on its networks, said it sold out of its JAZ pods, which are commercial breaks consisting of just two 30-second spots.

The increase in sales volume was driven by Fox’s addition of Thursday Night Football and a new live pre-game show. Fox’s Sunday football advertising inventory also had strong demand. NBC and CBS split the NFL’s Thursday night schedule last season.

Fox highlight its fall sports, including the NFL, College Football and the World Series during its upfront presentation in May.

Fox's prime time schedule got a mid-season boost from 9-1-1, which is returning, joining top-rated Empire and, The Simpsons, which is teeing up season 30. 

But Fox also recorded price increases across its cable entertainment portfolio, particularly for FX. (Fox News Channel is sold by a separate ad sales team.)

Revenue generated for Fox’s digital properties was up by double digits.

Fox has been emphasizing the need for TV advertising to evolve as more viewers move to ad free platforms. Joe Marchese, president for ad revenue at Fox Networks Group, said he wants to get ad loads down to 2 minutes per hour by 2020.

Fox last season introduced six-second spots and for this season rolled out what it calls JAZ pods, which has two ads placed in Just the A (first) and Z (last) positions.

Fox originally planned to use JAZ pods exclusively on Sunday nights, but reformulated its plans as it talked with advertisers wary of paying big price increases.

The current plan sold to advertisers, has JAZ pods running exclusively in The Orville and on three Sunday nights on Fox Broadcast. They will also be the exclusive ad format in The Weekly, the new news show from the New York Times and FX and some Nat Geo Shows.

NBCUniversal is also selling one-minute ad pods—called Prime Pods—in the upfront. NBCU said it would put prime pod in its highest rates shows across all of its broadcast and cable networks.

Last week, the CW announced that it was done with its upfront sales. The network is adding programming on Sunday night and racked up a 15% increase in sales volume and double digit price hikes.

The other broadcast networks are estimated to be about 70% done as the ad business gets reach to head to the Cannes festival in France.