Upfront 2015: Fox Broadcasting to Close With Lower Volume; Fox Networks Volume Is Flat

Courtesy of Steve Mack/FilmMagic

Fox Broadcasting will close its upfront sales having secured fewer advance advertising commitments from marketers, according to a person familiar with the matter, the result of ratings declines at the network due to a maturing “American Idol” and some programming misfires in recent seasons.

Meanwhile, Fox Networks Group, a broader unit that encompasses nearly all the entertainment TV properties of 21st Century Fox, will close with flat volume, this person said.

Fox Broadcasting’s tally is expected to be 3% to 5% below  the $1.51 billion to $1.61 billion in ad commitments it secured in 2014, which means the broadcast network likely secured between $1.43 billion and $1.56 billion this year.

To drive volume, and maintain advertiser interest at a time when Madison Avenue is focused more intently on emerging media such as streaming video and mobile devices, Fox lowered rates in the cost of reaching 1,000 viewers, a measure known as a CPM that is integral to these annual talks. Fox did deals that are flat with the CPM hikes it achieved in 2014 or cut them back by as much as 2%, according to media buyers.. The network had come under pressure by advertisers to lower its pricing: Because of its ratings success in past years, Fox has some of the highest rates for reaching 1,000 viewers in the business.

Fox is said to have sold roughly the same amount of its available inventory in the 2015 upfront as it did in 2014, when it sold between 75% and 80% of its available commercial time, this person said. The upfront is the annual session during which TV networks try to sell the bulk of their commercial inventory for the coming season.

Executives at the network’s parent, Fox Networks Group, chose to place additional emphasis on selling advertising packages across multiple media outlets. Advertisers were encouraged to consider broader deals that includes cable networks like FX, FXX, Nat Geo, and Nat Geo Wild; Fox Sports 1 and regional sports networks; and digital properties. The company also worked to sell ads not just on TV, but for content that appears on video on demand and mobile. Fox Networks expects the volume of ad commitments it secures across its portfolio to be flat, according to the person familiar with the situation.

Fox Networks also placed emphasis on so-called C7 deals that establish terms that will pay the company for advertising that is seen by viewers up to a week after the programming it accompanies debuts. More than half of the deals struck at Fox Broadcasting had terms calling for C7, this person said.

Among the programs that drew the most interest from advertisers were “Empire,” “Grandfathered,” and “Scream Queens” on Fox Broadcasting; “American Horror Story” and “The Americans” on FX; and Fox Sports broadcasts of the World Series, NFL games and Major League Baseball playoffs, this person said.