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Fox Sees Primetime, Sports Ad Gains As TV Upfront Wraps

Fox Corporation is the latest to benefit from stronger-than-expected trends in TV ad spending, as the company notched strong gains in advertising commitments for its next cycle of programming – its first since selling off a large chunk of its media assets to Walt Disney.

Ad demand was stronger than many executives anticipated, according to a person familiar with the matter. The volume of ad commitments for the primetime entertainment lineup on Fox Broadcasting – which includes “9-1-1” – increased in the high-single-digit percentage range over last year’s offerings, this person said. If Fox’s primetime entertainment volume rose in a range of 8% to 9% over last year, then the company could have secured between $1.6 billion and $1.82 billion, according to Variety estimates.

In 2018, Fox only managed to secure a 1% to 2% increase in ad commitments for its primetime lineup, which totaled between $1.48 billion and $1.67 billion, according to Variety estimates.

Fox is the latest TV network to wrap up its annual “upfront” talks with advertisers, part of a yearly ritual in which U.S. media companies try to sell the bulk of their commercial inventory for the next programming season. CBS, CW, WarnerMedia and Univision have all captured more advance ad commitments than they did in 2018’s discussions. The spending is being boosted despite declines in linear audiences, who are heading to streaming video that is available on demand. Blue-chip advertisers have grappled with concerns about the quality of content available from digital rivals as well as transparency of the way audiences are measured. Despite the popularity of streaming video, some of its bigger purveyors, including Netlflix and Amazon, do not run traditional video commercials in programming.

Advertisers seemed encouraged by Fox’s new emphasis on live programming, which includes several weeknights of sports shows on Fox Broadcasting as well as news programming on Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network. The company secured more volume for sports programs than it did last year, according to the person familiar with the matter, and saw marketers express interest in college football, Major League Baseball and programming on its Fox Sports 1 cable network.

Fox’s results were buoyed by added spending from telecom advertisers, automobile marketers, financial services companies and sellers of streaming-video services, this person said.

Fox pressed for new increases in the cost of reaching 1,000 viewers, a measure known as a CPM that is central to these annual discussions between U.S. TV networks and Madison Avenue. Fox sought CPM hikes of between 12% and 13% for its primetime entertainment lineup, according to the person familiar with the matter, compared with the 9% to 10% it sought in last year’s haggle.


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