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By Reporter
updated 5/17/2011 9:38:12 AM ET 2011-05-17T13:38:12

It's the "upfront" season for the television industry — the time of year when advertisers place their bets on the coming season's schedule of shows. It's also seen as a bellwether for the industry's health.

In a world of YouTube, iPads and Twitter, there's never been more competition for viewers' attention. But the reports of the death of television are premature. This year, the upfronts are on track to yield their best sales ever.

Ad demand is expected to generate record volume and ad rates — topping the $9.2 billion brought in at the 2008 upfronts. Why? Advertisers who held back last year got burned with 'scatter market' pricing costing as much as 30 percent higher than upfront prices. And if you're going for brand awareness, chief marketing officers say TV is still their best bet, according to the latest report from eMarketer.

In past upfronts, broadcasters worried that digital video recorders would take a big bite out of viewership; some warned they'd be the death knell of TV advertising. But a dozen years after TiVo launched, DVRs are actually helping shows survive. Networks now factor in DVR viewers for a full week after shows air when making decisions to renew a series. Advertisers currently pay based on viewers in the first three days after a show is broadcast, but networks will soon ask to be compensated for a week's worth of eyeballs.

That's just one way technology enables networks to eke out more revenue from their investments. NBC, FOX, and ABC also earn money from Hulu, which forecasts nearly $500 million in revenue this year. And they say Hulu doesn't cannibalize existing audiences, but adds to them. And then there's Netflix, which has struck deals for ABC, CBS and FOX library content, providing networks more incremental revenue.

(Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

Video: Viewers boost networks' bottom line

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