Daytime downshift

Save for 'Today,' upfront net ad sales look soft

NEW YORK — The advertising sales upfront for non-primetime dayparts began Thursday and, with the exception of NBC’s “Today,” media buyers characterized the marketplace as soft.

NBC is closing deals at double-digit cost per thousand (CPM) increases over last year for the highly rated “Today,” said ad agency sources, and most other morning news, daytime and evening news are getting only low single-digit increases and decreases in some cases.

“We’re seeing a slowdown in daytime, morning news and evening news,” said a media buyer. “There doesn’t seem to be a rush to put money down. This market isn’t moving.”

Flat times for primetime

Primetime business is expected to commence this week. Industry observers said that overall business for the six broadcast networks will be about flat with last year’s $6 billion primetime upfront. Networks will likely get low to mid-single-digit increases, which means the network business is softer than the previous couple of years.

“Prices haven’t been set yet, but it will be a moderate market,” said Steve Grubbs, executive VP/director of national broadcast for BBDO. “It’s a reflection of moderate demand.”

“The broadcast networks are in a weaker position than last year,” said another media buyer. “They’ll have to give in to a lot of advertisers if the advertisers have the flexibility to go to cable.”

Weblet and cable

The WB weblet closed some primetime business last week, said sources. Also, cable networks such as A&E were said to be closing upfront sales at prices up to 13%-14% higher than last year.

Buyers are threatening to shift significant money from broadcast budgets to cable, although how much of this is just a negotiating tactic is unknown at this point. Buyers said that cable will gain $300 million to $500 million in additional upfront ad sales this year.

In morning news, CBS is getting CPM increases in the 3%-4% range and ABC is netting price hikes in the 3%-5% area, said buyers. In evening news, all three networks were said to be cutting deals at prices lower than last year.

“Evening news is all hurting,” said one buyers.

In daytime, CBS’ prices are up about 3%, ABC is up 1%-2% and NBC is up 2%-3%.

Last year, the broadcast networks had revenues of roughly $2.5 billion for the non-primetime dayparts.