Cable networks reap the benefits from the four broadcast networks essentially setting ad rates through their upfronts, according to Brian Wieser, a securities analyst with Pivotal Research Group. "[Y]ou have four players who can effectively set the price in the market in a less competitive manner than would occur if you had 20 suppliers out there competing with each other. As a result, you end up with a higher pricing anchor on which the cable networks can set their prices," Wieser said.

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