TV Upfront

Broadcast TV Upfront Looks Like Rerun of Last Year Despite Ratings Slide

Fox Could Wrap By Monday, Viacom Nearly Done

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TV upfront negotiations are nearly a mirror image of last year's deal making.

NBC Universal's USA is seeking premiums for 'Modern Family.'
NBC Universal's USA is seeking premiums for 'Modern Family.' Credit: '

While networks have started securing ad commitments for the fall season, deals are not expected to move in earnest until next week, with major broadcasters poised to close business by mid-June, according to media buyers and people close to the networks.

As ratings erosion continues at the broadcast channels, more money is expected to move to cable, with media buyers predicting dollars at broadcast will be flat to down from the $9.2 billion it notched last year. Cable brought in $9.8 billion in last year's upfront.

Here's what our reporting has uncovered:

  • The CW started writing business Friday afternoon, according to a person close to the network.
  • Fox is once again an early mover, striking deals with movie studios, among others. It's traditionally the first broadcaster to start the party because it appeals to hard-to-reach young male audiences and has more limited inventory than its rivals (with only two hours of prime time programming per night).

    Fox is securing increases in CPMs, or the cost per thousand viewers, of between 5% and 7%. This is slightly below last year's CPM bumps of 7% to 9%. Its volume is expected to be down from the $1.98 billion to $1.99 billion it wrote in 2012, as it has less ratings points to sell. The network ended the season with a 22% ratings decline in the key 18-to-49 demo. Fox is on pace to wrap business as soon as Monday evening, according to media buyers.

  • ABC is also writing business, but is in the very early stages, according to a person close to the network and media buyers.

  • While CBS and NBC were in active conversations as of press time, no significant business had been written. "We are in active negotiations with major agencies across the industry," a CBS spokesman said in a statement, adding that he is confident the network will "lead in both volume and pricing."

  • As one of the only new elements to this year's upfront negotiations, all eyes are on NBC Universal's integrated approach. Its president of ad sales, Linda Yaccarino, is trying to move the company's broadcast, cable and digital assets at the same time. One hot topic among buyers: She's pricing sitcom "Modern Family," which will air in syndication on USA in the fall, notably higher than previous off-network shows on USA. A person close to the network said that only puts "Modern Family" in line with other popular, recent sitcoms in syndication at other networks, such as "The Big Bang Theory" at TBS. Some media buyers are looking to go through the backdoor, trying to buy "Modern Family" through 20th Century Fox, the show's production company, which has two episodes' worth of ad time per week to sell.

  • Viacom has nearly concluded its upfront business, securing CPMs in the range of 3% to 7% depending upon the volume increases, according to a person close to the network. The parent of MTV, VH1 and Nickelodeon is pushing for overall volume growth of double-digits.
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