TV ad sales up, despite weak economy

TV networks are wrapping up their advance prime time ad-selling season this year earlier than many had expected, despite predictions that the actors strike and a weak economy would stunt sales. Ad-buying commitments edged higher from last year, but only after some networks sold more ad time.

The annual “upfront” marketplace wrapped up in just a few weeks, with most networks winding down their advance sales for next fall's season this week. Networks sell about three-quarters of their ad sales in advance packages at this time of year, shortly after they announce their fall lineups.

Mike Shaw, the president of sales and marketing for ABC, a unit of The Walt Disney Co., said Tuesday that this year's marketplace went more smoothly than last year in part because advertisers were becoming more comfortable with a new set of TV ratings data.

Those ratings have two important changes from previous data: including viewers who watch a show played back within three days on digital video recorders, and selling ads based on how many people are actually watching the commercials, instead of the average rating for a whole show.