×

Networks, Ad Buyers Jostle to Try to Spark TV’s Upfront Market

TV networks and advertisers have begun early-stage negotiations as part of the industry’s annual “upfront” ad-sales market, according to six people familiar with the pace of discussions.

No one is believed to have begun writing business with any degree of earnestness, and several executives caution that marketers have yet to file their full budgets. Indeed, the ultimate shape of the marketplace remains unclear, with buyers suggesting volume of advance ad sales will be down in 2017, while some senior TV executives hint money might be up. “I’m not sure why anyone would rush in and cut pricing if they don’t even know what demand looks like,” said one media-buying executive

But the uncertainty hasn’t kept players on either side of the bargaining table from trying to spark an early deal.

Billions of dollars are at stake. Each year, as part of the upfront, U.S. TV networks try to sell the bulk of their commercial inventory for the coming programming cycle. In 2016, the nation’s five big English-language broadcast networks secured between $8.41 billion and $9.25 billion in advance ad commitments for primetime, according to Variety estimates –  the first time in three years they’ve managed to break the $9 billion mark.

There is strong doubt they’ll be able to the same this year. “No one thinks it’s shaping up to be a market higher than year ago on rate of change or volume,” the media-buying executive said.

There has been speculation in the marketplace that Omnicom Media Group, the parent unit representing agencies that buy ad time for Procter & Gamble, Apple, AT&T and Pepsi, among other blue-chip marketers, has been kicking tires to see if specific networks might be willing to do an early deal. A spokesperson for the Omnicom Group unit was not able to make executives immediately available for comment.

CBS, NBCUniversal and ABC are among the media companies that have begun having discussions, according to the people familiar with the talks.

The haggling is unlikely to be wrapped quickly, people on both sides suggested, owing to a host of issues at play. Marketers need to consider their overall media mix, said one buyer, and determine how much to allocate for traditional TV and how much to earmark for other kinds of video. Advertisers and media companies continue to struggle with measurement of new kinds of video viewing. And many media companies are offering new kinds of data that take time for clients to understand.

Media buyers expect CBS or NBCUniversal to set the tone of the market this year, owing to a broad array of new executives put in place to head ad sales at Viacom, Fox Networks Group, Discovery Communications, AMC Networks, and Disney/ABC Television Group. NBCUniversal’s Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships, and CBS’ Jo Ann Ross, president of advertising sales,  have the most significant properties to sell. Others with experience include Keith Turner, president of ad sales and marketing at Univision and Rob Tuck, executive vice president of national sales, and Turner’s Donna Speciale. She brings with her a unique perspective from her days as a senior buyer at the MediaVest buying agency.

Before the market moves significantly, some clouds have to clear.  In the meantime, both sides are engaged in plenty of chatter.

More TV

  • THE ORVILLE Fox

    'The Orville' to Move From Fox to Hulu for Season 3

    Seth MacFarlane’s “The Orville” is on the move. MacFarlane announced Saturday at the show’s San Diego Comic-Con panel that Season 3 of the sci-fi series will air exclusively on Hulu rather than on Fox as it has for its first two seasons. According to an individual with knowledge of the situation, MacFarlane’s current workload and [...]

  • Westworld Season 3 Trailer

    Aaron Paul, Showrunners Unveil 'Westworld' Season 3 Trailer (Watch)

    Season 3 of “Westworld” is going to new worlds altogether. Unveiled during the show’s Comic-Con panel, the trailer teases Thandie Newton’s character Maeve entering a new world of hosts set during World War II. Meanwhile, in the human world, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and her fellow hosts who escaped “Westworld” in season 2 are being [...]

  • Variety Cord Cutting Placeholder Cable

    Dish Faces Multiple Outages as Carriage Contracts Come Due

    Satellite-broadcaster Dish is known in the media industry as a hard bargainer when carriage contracts come up for renewal. HBO hasn’t been available on the service since November. Now, other TV networks face a similar prospect. Unless Dish and certain content suppliers reach new terms by Monday evening, subscribers who use several cable networks currently [...]

  • Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard of

    'Star Trek: Picard' to Feature Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, Jeri Ryan

    “Star Trek: Picard” is bringing back some familiar faces. During the show’s San Diego Comic-Con panel on Saturday, it was revealed that Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, and Jeri Ryan would reprising their roles from “Next Generation” and “Voyager” in Ryan’s case. Jonathan Del Arco will also appear, likely reprising his role as the [...]

  • The Simpsons Homer Live

    'The Simpsons' Will Finally Release Season 19 on DVD, Helping Out Purist Collectors

    “The Simpsons” DVD collectors who also happen to be obsessive-compulsive can rest a little easier: You’ll finally be able to fill in that missing Season 19. Executive producer Al Jean revealed on Saturday that 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment will finally release the 19th season of “The Simpsons” on DVD this December 3, two years [...]

  • Pictured: No'l Wells as Ensign Tendi;

    'Star Trek: Lower Decks' Sets Main Cast

    The upcoming animated series “Star Trek: Lower Decks” has announced its main voice cast. Tawny Newsome, Noël Wells, and Eugene Cordero will all star in the series. As Variety exclusively reported, Jack Quaid has also been cast as Ensign Brad Boimler. The Starfleet characters that comprise the ship’s bridge crew include Captain Carol Freeman, voiced by [...]

  • Jack Quaid

    'Star Trek: Lower Decks' Casts Jack Quaid (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jack Quaid has joined the voice cast of the upcoming animated series “Star Trek: Lower Decks” at CBS All Access, Variety has learned exclusively. As previously announced, the series will focus on the support crew serving on one of Starfleet’s least important ships. Quaid will voice the character of Ensign Brad Boimler. Described as a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content