Upfront: Cable Hauls 18% Rise In Ad Buys
Estimates are now that it could land all cable at $7.7 billion, up 18% versus a year ago.
Media-buying and selling executives say cable price increases on the CPM viewers against the popular 18-49 viewers were 5% to 9% higher versus a year ago -- depending on the network and the particular package.
While he would not go into details about A&E -- or the market in general -- Mel Berning, executive vice president of advertising for A&E Networks, said: "Pretty solid market. This wasn't a barn burner of years ago. But it brought it back to mind."
"We can smell summer -- that's for sure," said another media executive, comparing the speed of this year versus 2009's drawn-out, somewhat contentious market of a year ago that ran from the end of July through the month of August.
One major change this season: More cable ratings erosion. Among the key adult 18 to 49 demographics, prime-time program ratings from Sept. 21 through June 6 were down 11% at USA; 7% lower at TBS; 9% less at TNT; and 4% off for Discovery. Others were more fortunate: A&E Network was 10%; ABC Family was flat; and TLC was 4% higher.
This cable viewership erosion gave some networks the chance to play the same negotiation card that the broadcaster have used for many years: That is the "scarcity" issue. Lower ratings on some valuable inventory in some individual shows gave cable networks the ability to charge just over double-digit CPMs in selective cases.
One next question for the market is whether the hot upfront will yield to a typical trend -- that is, being followed by a cooler scatter market. Leading marketers spending heavily in the upfront could have less to spend in scatter. This would be a sharp contrast to the past season's scatter market, where pricing was -- in some cases -- 30% above 2009 upfront levels.
This could affect cable networks more than broadcast networks, since they only do upfront deals for 50% to 60% of their commercial inventory in the upfront, while broadcasters ink upfront deals for 70% to 80% of its commercial inventory. On the other hand, a stronger ad market could give cable networks more opportunity for growth with bigger scatter advertising revenue.
"There is nothing that indicates that money is not going to be there," the TV sales executive said. "And nothing that indicates it wouldn't be up a similar amount than in all these other companies."