Judging by comments this week from various industry sources, it appears cable has been able to shrug off potential upfront sales threats such as the listless economy and the profusion of online ad dollars. Hard data will have to wait until nets wrap up their negotiations—many will do so this week and next—but early indicators point to bulging pockets. Even big broadcasters’ ad sales have fared well this year, certainly a positive sign for cable. "The market is much stronger than people thought initially," said Hallmark Channel evp, ad sales Bill Abbott. "We’re doing very well." Approx half of the net’s deals are completed, he said, and so far CPM increases have been "very healthy." Ditto for Lifetime. "We are actively writing business with CPM increases in the high single digits along with healthy volume gains," said a net spokesman. Another programmer, who requested anonymity, said it is seeing similar 9%-10% CPM growth amid "very strong [upfront] business." At conferences earlier in the week, Viacom pres/CEO Philippe Dauman said the company’s cable stable is enjoying "good growth on volume and pricing," while ESPN/Disney Media Networks co-chief George Bodenheimer remains "bullish on our advertising." Given how the ease of audience segmentation on the Internet has become beguiling to many advertisers, such a positive outlook may still be surprising to some. Indeed, online ad sales are skyrocketing, just not yet to the great detriment of TV. "At the end of the day, television is still the best proposition," said Abbott.

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