TV Upfront

Remotes yield to mouse clicks

Players expect changes in how networks weighted, live-plus-7 numbers and Web's value

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With $15 billion-plus about to be spent in TV's upfront bazaar, Advertising Age intern Leslie Taylor asked a variety of parties-on the advertiser and media sides-how much the 2006 upfront is likely to change from a year ago, and whether they feel they're in a weaker or stronger position as they go to the bargaining table. Claire Atkinson also queried network executives. After all is said and written, these are among the folks who will make the upfront a boom or bust for content providers and those who bankroll them. Below are their edited responses, provided by e-mail and phone interviews.

Bruce Lefkowitz,

exec VP-ad sales, Fox Cable Entertainment:

"The 2006-07 upfront will mark the beginning of a subtle but significant transformation of how upfront television is purchased. The growth of nonlinear video products (broadband, video-on-demand, wireless, podcasts, etc.) ... will come into play ... It certainly will NOT materially affect the marketplace and there will not be the 3% of media spend that one of the trades predicted, but it will be a legitimate part of the media mix that will either chew up a portion of the incremental TV growth ... or cannibalize existing media.

"As more and more purchasing managers are involved in the media buying process, the demand for efficiency, accountability and return on investment increases.

"The '06-07 cable market will see a change in the 'differentiators' that agencies use to distinguish networks and allocate budget. The four [new] factors will be buzz programming, nonlinear options, improved research metrics, audience growth. No longer will audience decreases be rewarded with increased share and [costs per thousand].

"The result is a cable market where there are 'The Victorious & the Vulnerable.' Even an unbiased viewpoint would offer that both FX and National Geographic Channel should clearly reside in the victorious column."

Steve Gigliotti,

exec VP-advertising sales and emerging media, Scripps Networks:

"The biggest change ... is really the focus on new media and online. That focus has been there for the last two years, but because of the changes in measurement, the controversy over 'same day' and 'same plus seven days delayed' (DVR and TiVo) from Nielsen, the focus on 'convergence' has increased dramatically.

"Scripps has five cable networks that enjoy tremendous online interaction. Fourteen million unique visitors each month move back and forth between televised shows and online information."

Liz Janneman,

senior VP-ad sales, The Weather Channel:

"The upfront advertising market has changed primarily due to two factors: One is the requirement of many advertisers for greater accountability, and two is the ability to incorporate ideas across multiple platforms.

"With respect to accountability, we are the only network that has purchased minute-by-minute ratings, which clearly demonstrates that our viewers watch the ads.

"With respect to multiplatform ... We have a strong Web site with and have a strong overall brand in The Weather Channel, which allows for our content to be displayed on cellphones, podcasts, etc.

"The changes in the upfront demands with respect to accountability and multiplatform opportunities ... have put The Weather Channel in the strongest position ever."

Jon Nesvig,

president-ad sales, Fox Broadcasting Co.:

"We're going through a transition. We've seen Yahoo back off from creating [original] content. The big Internet guys are looking to us as content providers. It's really about how we transition from linear to a bigger and broader distribution system. We are going to be there, and we're doing those integrated promotions. That will make the upfront less important as they continue."

Keith Turner,

president-ad sales, NBC Universal Television:

"We have a network [sales] team, a news team, sports team, a Telemundo team and have created a digital team to work with all the properties and talk to customers and sell a more integrated approach. "

Bo Argentino,

senior VP-advertising and media sales, NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution:

"While new media have advertisers' attention, and are playing an increasing role in the mix, I don't think the shift will be too dramatic in daytime, where there is a limited number of consistent ratings performers and demand continues to be very strong.

"Our lineup is stronger, with two shows in particular-'The Megan Mullally Show' ... and 'Access Hollywood' ... Both offer great Web-based opportunities as well."

Geoff Robison,

senior VP-national TV, Palisades Media Group:

"The biggest change is the time-shifted data that are coming out of Nielsen now that are going to be a big debate coming into the upfront. Which stream of data, which rating are we using as a currency. The advertising community wants to use the live numbers ... and, of course, the networks want to use the biggest number, which is live-plus-seven. If that doesn't work, they're going to want to compromise live-plus-same day.

"Hopefully, the advertising community will be able to hold out ... I don't think this is going to be the strongest upfront we've had in a while. It will probably be similar to last year. So media buyers are going to have a little leverage on their hands as ratings on the broadcast networks aren't up, they're down again. The mature cable networks aren't growing by leaps and bounds."

Donna Campanella,

director-team leader, media, Pfizer:

"From our point of view, the upfront is not dead. Last year, the market was down a little, about 4%, and this year nobody is really projecting a strong market. It will probably be flat. So when you look at it from a big perspective, I think the buyers are going to be in a pretty good position.

"From a broad perspective, there are a couple of key things we are looking at. It's not only exposure, but it's also the engagement-how much people are interacting with the program and therefore our messages. We're looking also in terms of accountability-especially as we are running more ads that are direct-response, where we can send people to resources for more information to get educated about their health. We're running more ads online that people can click to get information. We know how well they are doing. We're looking for overall effectiveness in the delivery of responsible health information, not just ratings.

"But the one thing that has not changed is efficiency. We're still looking for effective AND efficient buys.

"When we look at the upfront in broad terms, a couple of things are changing that are making it exciting. First is what is going on in the digital media space. We see a number of large companies are offering digital opportunities. They are offering their programs online and via video-on-demand, and therefore we have new opportunities in which to run our commercials.

"This allows us opportunities to reach consumers with important health content where they seek information. People now get their programs and their messages when and where they want to. This is going to change things [at the upfront] because we're not just negotiating for one platform. We're looking across the board at multiple platforms via broadcast TV, online in streaming video and on VOD programs.

"Another thing that will affect this year's upfront is that the networks want to sell live-plus-seven ratings because of DVRs. This is a very interesting yet controversial concept. We must look at what impact [DVRs] will have not just today but in the long run as they become more universally adopted."

Jim Ensign,

VP-marketing communications, Papa John's International:

"Everybody is a little more humble-the networks realize that the marketers really are willing to invest and experiment in new digital delivery for video.

"And the agencies are realizing that clients are no longer willing to silo their business the way that agencies silo their business-a network budget to the network buying group, a digital budget to the digital media group, etc.

"We want to work with the networks that understand that they have to change the way they relate to their audience, who is our consumer."
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