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Fox Sees Flat Volume for Primetime in TV Upfront

Fox Networks Group expects the volume of advance ad commitments for primetime programming at its Fox broadcast network to be flat, an indication that Madison Avenue may be rethinking its use of TV’s most popular time period as advertisers gain the ability to be more sophisticated in how they reach consumers.

The 21st Century Fox-owned outlet sees volume for primetime as being “on par” with what it collected in 2016’s “upfront” market, according to a person familiar with the matter. In 2016, Fox attracted between $1.47 billion and $1.64 billion for its primetime schedule, according to Variety estimates, and grew volume between 3% and 5%.

Fox isn’t the only one of the nation’s five English-speaking networks to see flat primetime results. Advertisers at CBS placed new emphasis on that network’s late-night and  morning schedules, and earmarked the same amount of advance ad volume for primetime as they did in the previous year.

To be sure, primetime volume is significantly greater than that for other dayparts, but the volume growth for shows such as “CBS This Morning” and “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” offers a sign that some TV sponsors see other ways to reach an important crowd.

Executives at Fox Networks were said to be “pleased” by overall results, this person said, as they saw advertisers placing fewer dollars overall in TV’s upfront.  Each year, TV networks try to sell the bulk of their commercial inventory for the coming programming cycle as part of the industry’s annual haggle for advance ad commitments.

Fox was able to secure increases of between 6% and 8% in the cost of reaching 1,000 viewers, a measurement known as a CPM that is central to these annual talks between TV networks and advertisers. In 2016, Fox secured CPM increases of between 8.5% and 10%.

Media-buying executives have suggested Fox Broadcasting entered the market with somewhat less leverage than its peers, owing to ratings performance in the wake of a schedule that no longer includes “American Idol.”

Fox Networks saw similar pricing at its cable networks. The company also saw “significant demand” for digital ad opportunities, according to this person, with volume increasing more than 40% for new types of ad formats, including sponsored video-on-demand streams. Advertisers were particularly attracted to digital ads for FX, this person said, where executives said in May they would no longer accept traditional linear commercials.

Advertisers in broadcast seemed drawn to programs sych as “Gifted,” “The Mick” and the combination of “Empire” and “Star” on Wednesday nights, according to the person familiar with talks.

Fox Networks placed a heavier emphasis on sports programming in talks this year, and expects more than 30% of its NFL clients will use Nielsen’s growing efforts to measure so-called “out of home” viewership for coming broadcasts.

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