Time Warner’s Turner Projects Volume Gains in TV Upfront

Anderson Cooper Turner Upfront
Courtesy of Turner Broadcasting

Time Warner’s Turner expects to capture a greater volume of advance ad commitments in TV’s annual upfront marketplace, the latest indication that the TV industry may be faring better than expected in its efforts to woo Madison Avenue to its programs despite changes in audience behavior sparked by the advent of new video-streaming technology.

Turner, which operates TBS, TNT, CNN, Adult Swim and other cable-TV networks, has completed approximately 80% of its negotiations with media agencies, according to a person familiar with the matter. The company expects its volume of advance ad commitments to rise by an increase in the mid-single-digit percentage range, this person said. In 2016, Turner’s volume was seen rising between 2% and 4%. Drawing a straight line from upfront talks to tangible cash is difficult, but Turner’s ad revenue rose 3%, or $126 million, in 2016, according to its parent company. Advertiser interest in sports and news programming played a key role in the rise.

Each year in the upfront market, U.S. TV networks try to sell the bulk of their advertising inventory for the coming programming season.

The projection could signal TV’s upfront market is more robust than some had expected earlier in the year. TV still has challenges. Viewers are being drawn away by digital video and advertisers have a broader array of media options than they did in times past. And there have been concerns about some marketers holding on tighter to ad dollars. But executives suggest that pharmaceutical advertisers have this year allocated a significant amount of ad money for TV. At Turner, some of that pharma outlay has been supplemented by ad commitments from makers of consumer electronics as well as telecommunications marketers.

The CW expected a rise in the volume of its advance ad commitments, according to people familiar with discussions. CBS has projected a rise in ad volume for its late night and morning programming, with volume for primetime seen as flat.

Turner won advertiser interest with new emphasis on marketers place commercials with more precision helping through use of various streams of consumer data. And the company found a positive reception for new programs slated to roll out at TBS and TNT, among other outlets, according to the person familiar with the situation.

Like several other networks in the current market, Turner agreed to narrow the rate of increase it sought in the cost of reaching 1,000 viewers, a metric known as a CPM that is integral to these annual talks between TV networks and Madison Avenue. Turner sought CPM increases in the high-single-digit percentage range, according to the person familiar with the matter. In 2016, Turner pressed for CPM increases in the low-double-digit percentage range.