Perhaps the most telling sign that this year’s upfront did not go all that well for media sellers: Even spending on cable, which has been seeing gangbuster gains since the recession ended, was down. A new report from Media Dynamics, a media consulting firm, finds that overall dollar volume for the 2014 upfront fell by 6.1% compared to last year, to $18.125 billion. That includes a drop of 4.7% for cable, which slid from $10.16 billion to $9.675 billion, its first drop in four years.
TV broadcasters made an aggressive push in this year’s upfront market to get paid-for commercials viewed within seven days of airing instead of the industry-standard three. But one cable programmer took the opposite approach, turning away from “C7” and “C3,” as those standards are known, to sell ads in what it’s calling the “C-Zero” window: commercials that are seen live or on the same day they air. The idea, from Scripps Networks, stood out in the upfront marketplace.
Winners: Media buyers, NBC and sellers pushing for C7. Losers: The other broadcast networks, which failed to match last year’s gains with ratings in decline.
For many years an afterthought during the primetime-centric upfronts, the new regime in latenight hosts has lately heated demand from advertisers. “Usually in negotiations the conversation is around prime and then all the other dayparts lumped together, but latenight was a bigger part of the conversations,” one media buyer said.
Fox has completed its upfront negotiations for ad time in the upcoming TV season, with as much as a 15% drop in dollar volume and lackluster price hikes, according to a person familiar with negotiations. Fox secured anywhere from $1.5 billion to $1.6 billion in upfront commitments, down from its $1.8 billion in 2013.
The CW has largely completed its upfront negotiations for ad time in the upcoming TV season, securing dollar volume on par with or slightly down from the $400 million or so it brought in last year, according to a person familiar with negotiations. The network notched price increases between 3% and 4%.
NBC is wrapping its upfront in a different way than its broadcast-network brethren, securing more — not less — advance advertising commitments for its fall schedule. The network expects to notch approximately 15% more in ad commitments for its primetime entertainment programming, than it did in 2013 according to a person familiar with the situation.
ABC has largely wrapped its upfront deals, according to a network spokeswoman, making it the second broadcaster to conclude its annual summer deal-making. ABC secured price hikes between 4% and 5%, according to a person familiar with negotiations. That’s down from the 7% to 8% increases it garnered in 2013.
Broadcast networks, on the road to completing much of their upfront deal-making, are operating in a marketplace that is still concerned about weak pricing and volume gains. “Broadcast is pretty much done; cable is moving slowly,” says one veteran media-buying executive. One network, CBS, offered a statement: “As we near the finish line, we are very confident that CBS has once again achieved the highest pricing and most total dollars in the upfront marketplace.”
CBS has largely completed its upfront sales, according to the network. “As we near the finish line, we are very confident that CBS has once again achieved the highest pricing and most total dollars in the upfront marketplace,” the company said in a statement. Media buyers and analysts said CBS was securing CPM increases as low as 5%. Other people familiar with the situation said the figure was slightly higher.
Now that broadcast networks have begun to write business in TV’s annual “upfront” market, cable players are preparing to join the fray. Executives at Time Warner’s Turner suite of cable networks believe there’s an opportunity for volume gains in the 2014 upfront market, when U.S. TV networks try to sell the bulk of their ad inventory for the coming season.
Add ABC to the list of TV networks getting started in this year’s upfront market. The Walt Disney outlet has begun conversations with advertisers and may even be doing a little business, according to an ad buyer and another person with knowledge of the pace of negotiations.
NBC is nearing the halfway point of its deals, while Fox just began writing them. CPMs are up between 5% and 8%. Media people say it’s a buyer’s market.
Other media agencies aren’t likely to follow in GroupM’s footsteps by striking broad agreements to use C7 in upfront deals this year, according to people familiar with the upfront market. Other agencies are still hesitant to strike broad-based agreements for C7 that would apply to a majority of their clients.
GroupM is striking agreements with broadcasters to do business on a C7 basis for its clients during upfronts, according to multiple people familiar with the talks. Actual commitments for ad time aren’t the focus; instead the parties are laying groundwork to do deals that consider commercial ratings over the course of a week instead of the current industry standard of three days.
Haggling in the 2014 upfront market has yet to begin in earnest, and the reason isn’t hard to determine: Buyers and sellers are stuck on price. With advertiser budgets expected to be down from last year, media buyers are pressing TV networks to accept a lower rate of increase in a key element of upfront negotiations, when TV networks try to sell the bulk of their ad inventory for the coming year.
All’s quiet in the TV upfront marketplace. Following last year’s relatively slow pacing for upfront deal-making — the time when networks look to secure ad commitments for the fall season — this year’s marketplace is expected to once again be drawn out through the summer months.
Everyone wants to know how the Peacock will strut. In the still-embryonic “upfront” market of 2014, most buyers and sellers have yet to move off of the sidelines. Part of the reason for that is that many advertisers have not registered ad budgets, according to ad-buying executives. But many media companies are also shying away from the negotiating table due to a desire to find out how NBC intends to act.
Networks are adjusting to the changed world of how people watch their programs: hours or weeks later on DVR, online or on-demand. But the industry’s financial structure hasn’t caught up yet, so viewers who watch when a program is first aired — once the only way to watch — are considered more valuable.
There are a lot fewer comedies and big-name celebrities but a lot more diversity, big event programming and greater emphasis on cross-platform viewing.
ABC and ESPN ad sales teams made a clear signal to advertisers during their respective upfront presentations last week that the two groups are open to doing business together. It’s a new message for the networks. Despite having the same parent in Walt Disney Co., the two haven’t purposefully gone to market with deals that combine inventory from both channels.
Here’s a look at some highlights, lowlights and sidelights of upfront week, which took place from Monday through Thursday as television executives offered Madison Avenue previews of their schedules for the 2014-15 season.
Now that the broadcasters have revealed their slate of new shows for the upcoming season, here are Ad Age‘s network-by-network picks (with trailers) for what will last … and what will quickly fade away.
The CW is heading into the fall with a very conservative fall schedule, keeping three of five nights intact and introducing only two new series, The Flash and Jane the Virgin, with two new and two returning dramas held for midseason.
Here are the first looks at CBS‘s new dramas and comedies as part of the 2014-15 series orders. The network has made full trailers of most of its fall series now that its upfront presentation has concluded in New York — including summer series Extant. Still to come, midseasoners Battle Creek, CSI: Cyber and The Odd Couple. Here are the rest.
Call it the C-7 smack-down. Broadcasters have been lobbying hard to be paid for viewers who watch a show within a week after its network airing. Advertisers have largely resisted the move because it would mean having to fork over payments for an audience that advertisers now get for free. But delayed viewing has become increasingly prevalent now that digital video recorders are deployed in about half the homes in the country.
With only two new comedy series vs. six new dramas, CBS gave indications it may be retreating in comedy. It happened not on Thursday, where CBS expanded its comedy block to two hours last season, but on Monday, where the network’s traditional two-hour comedy block has been a long tradition. A lot of veterans are on the move, including NCIS: Los Angeles, CSI and The Amazing Race.
Soccer, spicy love stories, a search for a next-generation Latino boy band and even NASCAR racing have become armaments in a stepped-up battle for Latino television viewers. For years, the two established Spanish-language media companies — Univision Communications and NBCUniversal’s Telemundo — have dominated the space. But with more than $2.5 billion in annual advertising revenue up for grabs, Latino media has become one of the hottest and most competitive corners of the industry.
NBCUniversal’s Telemundo is taking a victory lap for its World Cup acquisition back in 2011 during the upfront this season. Sitting in the driver’s seat during that lap is newly announced network president Luis Silberwasser. The company paid some $600 million for the rights to broadcast the most-popular global sports event in Spanish; now it’s shooting the works on promotion as the next contest approaches (this year’s FIFA World Cup will air on Univision, but it’s soon enough that the network is changing emphasis to its newly purchased U.S. soccer rights).
ABC plans to begin testing a new level of data-driven ad sales for its online video inventory this summer, according to the network, in the latest step by TV networks toward programmatic ad selling and buying.
A Shonda Rhimes 8-11 p.m. Thursday lineup highlights ABC’s fall schedule, with Rhimes’ red-hot Scandal bracing for a 9 PM showdown with another sizzling drama that is moving to Thursday next season, NBC’s The Blacklist.
As the five broadcast networks meet Madison Avenue this week in the annual pitch for their share of the $74 billion spent each year on TV ads, CBS is most likely to secure the biggest increase, one Wall Street analyst predicts — because it will introduce Thursday-night NFL football.
NBC’s two-hour Thursday night comedy block will come to an end this fall. The broadcaster is scaling back its comedy investment on TV’s most lucrative night for advertising. Instead, NBC plans to gives its breakout hit The Blacklist the post-Super Bowl spot next year, then shift it to Thursday nights at 9 p.m. in midseason. All told, seven new dramas and comedies will join NBC’s lineup next season, along with two event miniseries.
Coming off a rough spring, Fox was expected to make some major changes to its schedule — and it didn’t disappoint. The net’s fall schedule makes the most of what it has to work with, adding five new series (comprising more than a third of its schedule) and making changes to every night it airs series programming — including adding live-action comedy to Sunday.
Animation domination no more. Fox is abandoning the all-animated Sunday comedy block to revert to a mix of live-action and animated comedies on the night, with Brooklyn Nine-Nine and newbie Mulaney joining The Simpsons and Family Guy.
ABC has ordered two more comedy series for its 2014-15 lineup — Cristela and Fresh Off the Boat — and renewed Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing for a fourth season. All three shows hail from 20th Century Fox TV.
With 20 returning series and eight new shows for 2014-15, the network also dropped rookies Hostages, Friends With Better Lives and Bad Teacher.
NBC desperately seeks comedy, Fox hopes to fix Idol fatigue, CBS reboots NCIS and CSI, and ABC leans on Shonda Rhimes (again) as the $9 billion ad scramble hits New York.