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Invites in Mail for Cable's Upfront Season

As spring approaches, young men's fancies may turn to love, but a courtship ritual of another kind is already underway.

Madison Avenue's annual mating season, known as the upfront, is in the offing — and a number of cable networks have put their presentation invitations in the (e-)mail.

Invites from at least a half-dozen networks are trumpeting parties or presentations designed to entice advertisers and press and draw attention to the GRP, CPM and demographic benefits of their services, well ahead of the historic May-to-June negotiating period.

Leading off is Scripps Networks, which will host its first corporate presentation on Feb. 18 at Trump World Tower.

“We wanted to be first to let advertisers know who we are, how our networks are positioned,” said spokeswoman Cindy McConkey.

Ken Lowe, president and CEO of E.W. Scripps. Co., and cable-network officials will entertain ad executives, who will munch eats prepared by Food Network stars Emeril Lagasse and Rachel Ray, and drink from a scotch bar stocked by Fine Living's Kevin Brauch.

National Geographic Channel will host its initial upfront soiree at Gotham Hall on March 4 from 6 to 10 p.m. Steve Schiffman, executive vice president of marketing, said the party will be a showcase for new programming under the network's “Dare To Explore” positioning.

Schiffman said there will be various “interactive elements at play that will help put a face on the National Geographic Channel. We want people to know that Nat Geo is more than lions, tigers and bears, oh my.”

Nickelodeon is returning to the Roseland ballroom on March 16 at 9 a.m. Nick spokesman David Bittler was light on plans, promising only that there wouldn't be “any Powerpoint presentations,” Nick execs again would somehow be engaged in the presentation and there would be “surprise talent at the end.”

Court TV is warming up a “magic bus” to take advertisers to different spots around the city this spring, according to spokeswoman Carole Shander. Press types, who won't be given a ticket to ride on the vehicle shrink-wrapped with the letters ROI, will have to digest a breakfast presentation at Michael's on March 29.

Elsewhere, Cartoon Network is staging its upfront Feb. 25 at 4:30 p.m. at Chelsea Piers, in concert with Kids WB! Discovery Networks U.S. is returning to the American Museum of Natural History on March 23 at 4:30 p.m.