September 17, 2008 / 8:11 PM / 9 years ago

Fox and CBS say TV advertising holding up

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Advertisers are moving forward with deals they signed last spring for billions of dollars in television commercial time, and remain willing to pay top dollar for additional spots, two top media executives said on Wednesday.

The upbeat comments from Rupert Murdoch, chief executive of News Corp, which owns Fox, and Les Moonves, chief executive of CBS Corp, suggest that national TV advertising is weathering the U.S. economic turmoil for now.

They were speaking at a closely watched media conference, which comes amid fears that a sharp downturn in local advertising due to cutbacks by auto and financial sectors could quickly spread to the national TV market. Those fears have only been heightened by this week’s financial upheaval.

“We’re very encouraged,” Moonves said at the Goldman Sachs media conference. “The cancellation factor... has remained consistent with the last 5 or 10 years. It’s been minimal.”

He added, in reference to the deepening economic troubles, “It has not affected our network.”

Murdoch made similar comments earlier in the day, telling investors that “the advertising on the upfront is holding incredibly. We’ve had almost no cancellations on the upfront.”

Last spring’s upfront market -- named because that’s when broadcasters pre-sell commercial time for the TV shows aired during prime-time -- brought in more than $9 billion in advertising deals for the major networks. Rates rose 7 percent to 10 percent from the prior year.

Both Murdoch and Moonves also said national advertising rates were still robust in the scatter market, where marketers can make last minute buys for commercial spots.

“The scatter market has been holding strong,” Moonves said.

Local TV advertising is another matter, with prices under sharp pressure because of budget cutbacks from the auto industry, one of the key buyers of commercial time on local TV stations. Observers also note that print and radio have been hard hit by the pullback.

Reporting by Paul Thomasch and Robert MacMillan, editing by Richard Chang

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