In the recently concluded upfront TV ad marketplace for the 2015-16 TV season, broadcast TV networks’ primetime spending sank 3.7% to $8.36 billion, with cable TV networks down 2.3% to $9.45 billion.
Madison Avenue and TV appear to be entering into an on-again off-again relationship. Advertisers still want to use TV, but they are trying to be coy about their intentions. Media-buying executives estimate the volume of ad commitments made to Fox, NBC, CBS, the CW and ABC declined during TV’s recently completed upfront market, when big advertisers earmark dollars for the networks’ new fall programming. Of the five English-language broadcast networks, only CW secured an increase, according to buying executives.
ABC on Tuesday confirmed that it has completed its 2015-16 upfront negotiations, thereby drawing to a close the broadcast portion of TV’s annual summer sell-off. Speaking to investors during Walt Disney Co.’s third-quarter earnings call, COO Tom Staggs said the Mouse House was “optimistic about ABC’s fall lineup,” adding that “advertisers have responded [to the new schedule] by agreeing to give ABC industry-leading pricing gains in our just-completed upfront.”
NBC Universal has closed out the last of its 2015-16 upfront business, writing nearly $6 billion in advance commitments across its portfolio of broadcast and cable assets. People outside the network familiar with the dealing said NBC’s broadcast division earned some of the industry’s highest ad-rate hikes, pricing inventory up 5% versus the year-ago period. Dollar volume at the network was up 1%.
For ABC, the upfront process has been a slow slog, as the network is holding out for stronger pricing than its apparently gotten across the board, a network insider says. After all, ABC’s ratings have risen year-over-year, as Shondaland Thursdays have become a game-changer towards the week’s end.
Viacom, which has suffered in recent years from ratings declines at its major cable networks, expects to notch a greater volume of advance advertising commitments as part of its annual upfront negotiations — but the reasons behind the slight uptick may have only a little to do with traditional TV.
Advertiser interest in latenight television is more intense than it has been in years, media buyers say — so much so that sponsors are willing to pay bigger price increases to advertise on latenight TV shows than they are in primetime. “I just think latenight is the hot daypart,” said Billie Gold, VP and director of buying and programming research at media buyer Carat. “There are days when latenight’s 18-49 numbers are higher than shows in primetime.”
The broadcast network sees moderate declines due to lower ratings; parent Fox Networks Group has flat revenue, slight price increases.
CBS is about to close its upfront sales with lower volume, according media buyers and other executives, who describe a marketplace in which Madison Avenue is earmarking fewer dollars for TV advertising and also placing more money against new forms of digital media.
It’s hard to say whether this indicates that the ad market is more robust than expected, or that The CW is simply taking business from its rivals. But the network co-owned by CBS and Warner Bros. just became the first broadcaster to complete its upfront selling with unit prices up about 4% and volume up between 12% and 15%, according to sources. CW picked up 30 new clients, including automakers, finance and retail companies.