The upfront ad selling is underway, I’m told — although the first reports involving deals with Fox probably won’t cheer network and programming execs. Unit prices are said to be flat to down a percentage point or two from last year at a company with a broadcast network that’s praying for a turnaround after a season in which its ratings plummeted 24% dropping it from No. 2 to No. 4.

Movie studios, eager to reach Fox’s relatively young audiences,  are believed to be the first in buying time. Early negotiations also involve the company’s broadcast entertainment, sports, cable, and digital properties, which seems to validate its effort to offer them as a portfolio.

The slow start to the deal making also appears to confirm forecasts that demand might be soft this time around. Last year most of the major networks wrapped up their sales by the end of June. But we’re coming close to the one-year mark in a period when TV ratings plummeted; broadcasters’ prime time C3 numbers in May were down 16% vs the same month last year while cable networks fell  7%, MoffettNathanson Research’s Michael Nathanson reported this morning.

Meanwhile advertisers are weighing aggressive sales pitches from digital platforms including YouTube, Yahoo, and AOL. And major buyers that account for $26 billion in global spending — including Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Fox, and Volkswagen — are reviewing their ad agency accounts.