They could, Barclays Equity Research analyst Anthony DiClemente says in a report this morning. He still predicts that sales in television’s pre-season marketplace will rise — by 4.3% to $9.49B for the Big Four broadcast networks, and by 6.3% to $9.88B for cable channels. DiClemente says he’s encouraged to see consumers’ growing willingness to buy cars; auto makers account for about 20% of all TV ads. But this year’s increase in upfront sales will lag last year when the top broadcasters were up 7.9%, and spending on cable rose 16.1%. Some advertisers will hold back “to maintain some flexibility in case of macro choppiness” later this year — meaning, they’ll wait to see if they can get a bargain in the scatter market if the economy turns south. Meanwhile, Fox and NBC may sell less of their ad inventory in this year’s upfronts, hoping that their ratings will improve and give them more leverage in negotiations with advertisers. While everyone looks at total dollars networks collect in upfront deals, the more important barometer for their health is the CPM price they can charge for each 1,000 viewers they reach. DiClemente predicts that ABC will end up +8%, CBS will be +10%, Fox will be +9%, and NBC will be +7%.
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