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Slight Rise For Scatter

Fourth quarter is traditionally the least sold among all quarters, and the current slow-to-nonexistent pace of late-year network scatter activity reflects that. Most agencies note little activity.

"We have no scatter business yet," explains one major agency buyer, "but given that fourth quarter generally boasts more inventory, I expect the scatter marketplace to be reasonably priced."

"Upfront sellers have not completed their deals yet," says Annette Cerbone, SVP/director, national TV and radio, Universal McCann. "Right now, we're in the presentation-and-approval state, so it's kind of early for scatter. [But] I suspect it's pretty easy to get things placed."

Those agency buyers willing to look ahead, however, see fourth-quarter scatter increases ranging anywhere from flat to 10%. With fine-tuning, that number increases to 5%-10% for most dayparts, except evening news.

"Evening news in fourth quarter looks to be pretty tight," says one buyer. "If inventory remains limited in that daypart, we could see scatter CPM increases of 25%."

What's the best network daypart to deal? Late night. The timeslot is softer, and buyers say less has been sold. Ray Dundas, SVP/group director, national broadcast, Initiative, notes that with more than 20 client upfront presentations remaining, "we don't know client anticipations for scatter yet." But based on upfront intelligence, network news is the tightest, he says. "I just don't see 25% increases. I don't see clients paying that because you can move to other dayparts or to cable."

Both CBS and Fox are actively seeking advertisers for their NFL packages, but sources say CBS, not the agencies, seems to be doing the most "pushing."