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(Reuters) - U.S. broadcast networks Fox and NBC are close to wrapping up their advance sales for commercial time for the upcoming fall season and have narrowly beaten analysts' expectations with rate increases of as much as 7 percent over last year, sources familiar with the negotiations said on Wednesday.
News Corp-owned Fox won a 5 percent to 7 percent increase from advertisers despite a drop in overall viewership, one source told Reuters.
The network sold about $1.75 billion of ad time for the upcoming season during the "upfront" negotiations, when advertisers buy commercial time in advance, the source said. That represents a roughly 10 percent decline from the $1.95 billion Fox booked last year during the upfronts.
Fox suffered from a ratings decline in the TV season that ended in May, largely due to a drop in viewership for its long-time ratings behemoth "American Idol" singing competition.
The NBC broadcast network, a unit of Comcast Corp, is close to finishing upfront sales with 7 percent to 8 percent gains over a year ago, a second source told Reuters. The volume of sales also increased, the source said.
Ahead of the upfronts, analysts at Barclays Capital forecast rates would rise by 6 percent on average, with 5.5 percent for Fox, and 5 percent for NBC.
For the first time, NBC is offering advertisers the chance to buy time across the broadcast network, NBC Universal cable channels such as Bravo and USA, and digital properties. Rates at its cable channels are up 8 percent to 9 percent, the source said.
NBC finished third in the ratings race last season among viewers 18 to 49, the group most desired by advertisers.
At Walt Disney Co's ABC, the network is still in negotiations and asking for rate increases of 7 percent to 8 percent, a source said.
Spokespeople at NBC, Fox and ABC declined to comment on the negotiations.
CBS, the most-watched U.S. television network, won rate increases of 7.5 percent to 8.5 percent and booked about $2.7 billion in commitments during the upfronts, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters last week.
Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Liana B. Baker; Editing by Ronald Grover, Andrew Hay and Jacqueline Wong