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Les Moonves: Advertisers Now Paying 25% More Than Earlier This Year

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NEW YORK — CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves said Tuesday that advertisers are now paying 25 percent more for TV commercial time than they did in the spring.

Moonves' comments, at a UBS media conference in New York, came a day after Viacom Inc. gave a similarly upbeat report on the ad market, a sign that businesses are more confident about putting money into marketing budgets.

The CBS chief said companies that were skittish about committing their ad budgets earlier in the year – when the economic outlook was less certain – have come back looking for more commercial time. He said CBS has had to pull promotions for its own shows to accommodate the uptick in demand.

Moonves also said CBS has sold about 90 percent of the commercial time available for the Feb. 7 Super Bowl, on pace with ad sales the NBC network reported ahead of this year's game.

Along with signs of an improving economy, CBS is continuing to do well in the ratings.

CBS ranked first among the six broadcast networks in total viewers in all four weeks of the November sweeps, which ran from Oct. 29 to Nov. 25 and is the period when ratings are used to set local advertising prices. CBS also prevailed among viewers 25 to 54 years old and was second to Fox in the 18 to 49 age group.

Advertisers are paying 25 percent more during the current "scatter market" period compared with the "upfronts."

The upfronts happen every spring as advertisers lock in commercial time ahead of the fall television season. Later, after the season has begun, they pick up additional time in the scatter market, closer to airtime.

This year, television networks decided to withhold more of their ad inventories than usual for the scatter market, gambling that prices would improve later in the year. That bet appears to have paid off.

On Monday, Viacom Inc. CEO Philippe Dauman said ad prices at the company's cable channels are up by "double digit" percentages from the upfronts. Viacom, which owns the BET and MTV cable channels, is controlled along with CBS by media mogul Sumner Redstone's National Amusements holding company.

Neither Moonves nor Dauman gave specific dollar figures on ad prices. Nor did either compare this year's rates with those from before the recession.

CBS shares were down 2 cents to $13.87 in afternoon trading amid broader market declines, while Viacom fell 26 cents to $30.16.