Upfront 2015: CBS Seen Closing With Lower Volume

CBS is seen closing upfront sales with lower volume, according to media buyers and other executives, who describe a marketplace in which Madison Avenue is earmarking fewer dollars for TV advertising and also placing more money against new forms of digital media.

“Agencies and clients continue to value the strength, stability and delivery that our schedule provides, and are increasingly committing dollars against C7,” the network said in a statement, referring to a measure of ad viewership across seven days after an initial air date.  “Looking ahead, ‘Thursday Night Football’ and our new latenight lineup will help us build on our number one position and bode well for us throughout the year.”

In last year’s upfront, CBS secured between $2.38 billion and $2.64 billion, according to Variety estimates. Speaking to investors in September, CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves said the network had seen a dip of between 4% and 5% in the volume of advance advertising commitments it had secured, compared to the $2.5 billion to $2.75 billion in commitments it attracted in 2013.

If CBS were to have followed a similar pace of business in this year’s negotiations, the network could have secured between $2.26 billion and $2.53 billion in advance advertising commitments, according to Variety estimates.

CBS made a push to secure increases in the cost of reaching 1,000 viewers, a measure known as a CPM that is integral to these annual discussions between advertisers and TV networks. Ad buyers suggested CBS was doing deals with CPM hikes of between 3% and 4%, though a person familiar with the situation CBS also sought agreements that called for CPM increases in the mid-single-digit percentage range.

The amount CBS held back for so-called scatter advertising, or ad inventory that is not purchased in advance, could not be immediately learned. In 2014, CBS  sold approximately 74% to 75% of its advertising inventory, compared with a more typical 79%, Moonves disclosed last year.

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