TV negotiations set to continue into the new year

LONDON - The traditional autumn dealing season for the following year's TV advertising airtime is running so late this year that several media buyers predict many 2003 TV ad deals may not be signed until January.

The bulk of the 60% of TV advertising deals up for negotiation have yet to be agreed. It is understood that ITV has not signed a single deal -- and the smaller TV companies, such as Channel 4 and Five, are forced to wait their turn.

The trading season got off to a later start than usual after ITV's generally well-received series presentations to agencies about forthcoming programmes and initiatives and details of increased investment in the schedule. Many clients, however, are looking to realign their television budgets given the changes in audience delivery, and agencies are taking into account the changed structure of business portfolios.

Chris Boothby, the director of broadcast at BBJ, said the stakes were higher this year than previously and a stand-off had developed between some agencies and the TV companies. "Given the differing requirements of the TV stations and advertisers, it has become a bigger game. Agencies are being more stringent in their negotiations," he said.

Another broadcast director said that a game of dare had developed beyond the usual negotiation posturing, as agencies and TV companies try to agree on the levels of share and discount.

But Steve Platt, the Carlton Sales managing director, said this year's trading season was no different from previous ones. "The crunch period is the week before Christmas. Some will be done in the week before Christmas, some the week after and some may run into the new year," he said.

The second broadcast director added that the stand-off could be good news for other media, such as press and radio, as advertisers begin to look for other ways of spending their media budgets.

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