Broadcast TV on Track to Pull In More Upfront Dollars Than Last Year

With Just the CW Left to Close, Estimate for Final Tally at $9.2 Billion, Up 5%

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Believe it or not, despite all the tough talk from TV media buyers leading into this year's upfront and a switch to commercial ratings, buyers may actually end up spending more upfront dollars with the broadcast networks this year than last year: Executives estimate the overall spend will increase about 5%.
The networks managed to secure increases in their cost-per-thousand-viewers rates, which were flat to negative last year.
The networks managed to secure increases in their cost-per-thousand-viewers rates, which were flat to negative last year.

NBC finishes around $1.8B
Only the CW is left to finish up among the broadcast-TV networks. Fox closed at $1.9 billion Tuesday, ABC and CBS wrapped up yesterday with $2.4 billion and $2.45 billion, respectively, and Jeff Zucker has told investors NBC is expected to finish with $1.8 billion in upfront revenue.

That puts the current network haul at $8.55 billion. But the final take could be as high as $9.2 billion if the CW writes at least as much business as the $650,000 it took last year. Industry estimates currently peg the total at $9.2 billion, which would be about a 5% increase from last year's $9 billion.

If the Peacock's total includes football, it's down 5% from its $1.9 billion take last year. "Sunday Night Football" accounted for $300 million of NBC's upfront sales last year. One major media buyer estimated yesterday that NBC's total was $1.5 billion, meaning the $1.8 billion figure cited by Mr. Zucker includes "Sunday Night Football," so it seems the NFL franchise got a similar amount of money this year.

Nets score CPM boosts
The networks managed to secure increases in their cost-per-thousand-viewers rates, which were flat to negative last year. ABC is believed to have scored the highest with 7% to 9% increases, followed by CBS in the high single digits, Fox in the high mid-singles and NBC in the 3% to 5% range. The CW is said by several buyers to still be holding out for low double-digit CPM increases despite a decrease in ratings this season, limited prime-time inventory and a lack of additional dayparts.

While 10% of ABC's deals were done based on data streams other than "live plus three," spokespeople for Fox and CBS confirmed that virtually all their inventory was sold on a live-plus-three basis. Live plus three refers to those viewers who watch a program as it airs, as well as all viewers using digital video recorders who watch the program within three days of its broadcast.

Early morning is said by several buyers to be the daypart most likely to have struck deals on the basis of live or live-plus-one viewers.

Syndication to move fast
Syndication and cable are next, with one buyer predicting syndication will move fairly quickly -- the process could take just a week -- and cable to stretch out as long as five or six weeks.

"Cable is like fishes and loaves -- it's a never-ending supply, no mater how you slice it or dice it," said one major media buyer. "To replace one cable network with another cable network is always doable with very few exceptions. The immediacy and urgency in terms of doing the cable upfront is just not the same of what you're dealing with in a network-TV environment."
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