ABC Expects to Nab Volume Gains in TV Upfront

Walt Disney’s ABC expects to close its annual upfront sales with a modest increase in volume in advance advertising commitments, the latest sign that Madison Avenue is focusing more intently on TV than it has in recent years.

Advertisers proved interested in ABC’s new slate of programs, according to a person familiar with the situation. The network unveiled a new drama,  “Designated Survivor,” featuring Kiefer Sutherland as a U.S. government official left to run the country in the wake of a terrorist attack, and a new comedy, “Speechless,” featuring Minnie Driver as the mother in a family with a special-needs child. In the TV industry’s annual upfront, U.S. TV networks try to sell the bulk of the advertising inventory for their coming cycle of programming.

Most of the nation’s TV companies are expected to nab a volume increase in the low-single-digit percentage range. ABC last year was able to secure between $1.67 billion and $1.88 billion in advance advertising commitments for its primetime schedule. If ABC were able to notch 2% to 4% more volume, it would have secured between $1.7 billion and $1.96 billion, according to Variety estimates.

ABC pressed for increases in rates, as well, another sign of a robust market. ABC sought hikes of between 8.5% and 10% in the cost of reaching 1,000 viewers, a measure known as a CPM that is central to these annual talks between TV networks and Madison Avenue. In 2015, ABC was able to secure rate hikes of around 4% to 5%. This is the first year in several that TV networks have had enough leverage to command broader rate hikes.

Other media companies have seen improving results in this year’s haggle. CBS, CW, Viacom and Time Warner’s Turner have all secured commitments from advertisers for greater spend, according to people familiar with the pace of negotiations. The results come after several years of advertisers earmarking funds for new types of commercials, including those found alongside streaming video, on mobile devices and in social media.

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