Upfront 2015: NBC Primetime Entertainment Volume Expected to Be Flat

NBC Upfront
Charles Sykes/NBC

NBC is expected to secure the same amount of advance advertising commitments for its primetime entertainment schedule as it did in 2014, the latest signal that TV networks have had to work through a difficult process in the 2015 upfront market, when U.S. TV networks try to sell the bulk of their ad inventory for the coming season.

In a prepared statement NBCUniversal said its entire portfolio of media properties secured “almost $6 billion in revenue commitments – up 2% from last year.”

Volume of commitments for the primetime entertainment schedule at NBC is expected to be flat with the estimated $2.3 billion the network notched in 2014. That figure excludes sales attached to NBC’s primetime football broadcasts and Olympics telecasts but is likely to include ad commitments associated with the network’s latenight programming, according to a person familiar with the situation. Including football, NBC’s volume may have increased around 1%, this person said, meaning NBC’s total primetime volume may have come to around $2.53 billion.

In contrast, NBC was able to secure a 15% increase in ad commitments in 2014 for its primetime offerings.

To get deals done at NBC, NBCUniversal had to accept more moderate pricing than it has in recent sessions. NBC struck agreements that in many cases called for an increase in the rate of reaching 1,000 people, a metric also known as a CPM, of around 5%, this person said. In 2014, NBC did deals that called for a CPM increase of 7.5% to 8%, the same conditions it pressed for in 2013. If many of NBC’s 2015 deals were struck at about 5%, it would mark the first time in about three years that the network has not been able to maintain or increase its pricing leverage in the upfront, another signal of the pressure being placed on traditional media outlets as Madison Avenue places more emphasis on digital media.

NBC’s cable properties were believed to be striking CPM deals similar to others in the market, according to people familiar with the situation. Viacom and Time Warner’s Turner both were doing deals that called for an increase of between 3% and 4%, according to people familiar with the talks.

NBCUniversal also said its digital-video business “grew 50% in this upfront, which we believe reflects the growing importance of multiplatform partnerships driven by premium video content.”

NBC’s broadcast results mirror activity in the rest of the market. Ad commitments for primetime at Fox Broadcasting and CBS are also believed to be down. Among larger media companies, volume at Turner is seen as being flat to down. Volume at Fox Networks is seen as flat and volume at Viacom is expected to edge up slightly.

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