TV Upfront

Top Cable Networks Racing Broadcast TV to the Upfront Finish Line

Major Cable Companies Have Substantial Business Done

By Published on .

Top cable TV networks are nearing the final lap in upfront negotiations for ad time in the new season even while some big broadcasters continue to negotiate deals.

'Cougar Town' on Turner's TBS
'Cougar Town' on Turner's TBS

In the last few years, the Big Four broadcasters and The CW have completed their upfront deal-making by early-to-mid-June, ahead of their cable counterparts. In 2012, Fox, the last to conclude, closed its negotiations on June 13. This year looks a bit different. While negotiations took off rather quickly, deals started to slow down as media buyers and the networks disagreed on pricing. CBS, Fox and The CW wrapped up earlier in the month, but major cable operators have swooped in while talks continue at ABC and NBC.

Turner's suite of networks, which include TBS, TNT and TruTV, are largely completed. The company struck deals for about as much of its ad inventory as last year, securing increases in the cost of reaching 1,000 viewers, an industry measure known as a CPM, between 7% and 8%, according to people familiar with the negotiations. While revenue is expected to be up, it's currently unclear by how much.

A&E Networks is about two-thirds done with negotiations, with inventory levels in line with last year. The company, which has rolled out hits like "Bates Motel" on its namesake channel and continues to see success with reality fare on History, is seeking about CPM increases of about 6%.

AMC is looking for hefty price hikes for its original series after a record-breaking season for "The Walking Dead." There is enough demand that advertisers are having trouble securing as much ad time in AMC's originals as they'd like, according to buyers.

Discovery Communications -- whose networks include Animal Planet, TLC and Investigation Discovery -- is about 70% done, seeking CPM increases in mid-to-high single digits, according to a person familiar with the network.

The cable upfronts on the whole are about 60% to 70% complete, according to executives familiar with negotiations, with as much as $800 million shifting out of broadcast and into the space.

Both ABC and NBC appear to be very close to the finish line, but there's no indication on how much volume either network has secured or how much inventory they are selling in the upfront. Networks sometimes hold back ad time to sell later in the so-called "scatter market' if they think odds are good that they can get higher prices then.

ABC has been bullish on pricing, according to media buyers, unwilling to budge from the 7% to 8% increases they are seeking. That seems to have delayed some negotiations a bit.

NBC's negotiations are taking longer than normal as Linda Yaccarino, president of advertising sales, goes to the marketplace selling all of NBC Universal's assets -- broadcast, cable and digital -- bundled together. The larger deals on the table are more complicated and take longer to negotiate, media buyers said.

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