Viacom CEO Says TV Ad Sales Are `Starting to Break' as Economy Recovers

Viacom Inc. Chief Executive Officer Philippe Dauman said the market is “starting to break” for broadcast and cable-television commercials sold in advance of next season, an improvement compared with last year.

After presenting TV lineups to advertisers during the past few months, networks are starting to sell commercials in the so- called upfront market for the season that starts in September. Such ad sales declined last year and weren’t completed until August for the broadcast networks because of the U.S. recession.

“The comments we made about the upfront taking place earlier, much more quickly are bearing out,” Dauman said, referring to remarks made during a conference call in April. He spoke today at a Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. conference in New York. “The price talks seem pretty good. It’s all about, ‘How much of a price increase will it be over last year?’”

Walt Disney Co. CEO Robert Iger said ABC is “in the middle of selling” commercial time and expects a “good upfront” because of the improving economy.

“The business that we’ve written so far, and we’ve written some, has been good and in line with what we are expecting,” Iger said at the Bernstein conference today.

Advertising sales in advance of the fall season may rise 20 percent to $8.26 billion for the top four broadcast networks, including ABC and News Corp.’s Fox, Barclays Capital analyst Anthony DiClemente estimated in April. Cable channel ad sales may gain 15 percent, he projected.

‘Lot of Deals’

CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves said “a lot of deals” will be completed this week for commercials next season on CBS, the most-watched U.S. broadcast network. CBS may sell as much as 80 percent of its ad inventory in the upfront market, he said.

“There’s a lot of activity,” Moonves said today at the conference. “The guarantees are where we’d like them to be. The numbers are where we’d like them to be. It’s a very strong marketplace.”

Viacom, the New York-based owner of MTV and Comedy Central, rose 97 cents, or 2.9 percent, to $34.16 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Disney, based in Burbank, California, gained $1.41, or 4.2 percent, to $34.74.

CBS, based in New York, increased 55 cents, or 3.9 percent, to $14.63.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah Rabil in New York at srabil@bloomberg.net

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