ORLANDO — The annual upfront ad market neared the finish line Tuesday, and with just a handful of business remaining to be done, estimates show the six broadcast networks will come at a shade over $6 billion, repping a 5% increase, as expected (Daily Variety, May 30).
A strong ad market, led by the automotive, telco, computer and drug categories, allowed healthy unit-rate increases, and CBS and the WB performed “surprisingly well,” said one buyer.
“I’ve never seen a year before where new shows so much influenced purchase decisions,” the exec said, noting that sales are most often based on prior-year ratings. “But this year, CBS and WB did very well based on their (program) presentations.”
Top-rated NBC again set and led the market, with total volume rising to $2.1 billion from $2 billion last year and cost-per-thousand (CPM) rate gains of 11% to 14%, once all the final accounting is completed. ABC will come in second, with volume estimates ranging from $1.3 billion to a shade over $1.4 billion, a significant drop from last year’s $1.55 billion. CPM hikes were “all over the lot,” buyers said, ranging from 5% to 12%, with most coming in around 8%.
With sharp ratings declines in its key 18-to-49 demos, “people have cut back on (ABC’s) share” of ad dollars, one buyer said. “They were competitive on pricing, but their CPMs are so high, the only way we could get them in line was to start spreading money over to lower CPM networks” targeting the same audience.
“I’m surprised they did that well,” said another ad-agency exec. “Their ratings are off so much that Tuesday and Wednesday, which had driven sales in the past, just aren’t dominant anymore.”
CBS was expected to sell perhaps $1.3 billion worth of inventory —up from $1.2 billion — at 8% to 10% increases, while Fox was due to come in at $1.1 billion, up from $975 million, with CPM hikes of 10% to 12%. Fox and the WB gained most from ABC’s decline, with the WB selling an estimated $150 million at 12% to 14% unit-price gains, with as much as 20% gains, off of low base rates, for some high-demand movie advertisers.
After an early emphasis on teens and kids, “our program expansion into the 18-to-34 category was applauded by advertisers going into the upfront,” said Jed Petrick, head of sales for the WB. UPN was due to sell about $75 million at modest high single-digit rate gains. But the weblet and other network sales chiefs either declined comment or couldn’t be reached.
As reported, spending by movie studios was flat at roughly $550 million, as reduced output and resulting lower ad commitments were offset by new entrant DreamWorks SKG (Daily Variety, June 2).