Cable Networks Could Lead The Upfront -- But Still Be Behind

What would be the psychological effects of cable's upfront ad revenues matching -- or exceeding -- the broadcast networks, as more than a few analysts predict?

Short term? A small cheer.

Long term? Cable still has a long way to go in other areas.

For everything but a few original dramas, cable's average CPM is at least 15% lower than the broadcast networks -- and there's little chance of cable catching up in that area.

It's estimated that broadcast networks in this upfront are tacking on CPMs ranging from 8% extra (NBC on the low end) to 14%. At best, cable networks will get to the high end of that range. But they would need much more to approach actual broadcast CPMs, which have been around $31 or $32 for key 18-49 viewers.

For many, CPMs still represent a key sticking point. Cable proponents say TV viewers are TV viewers. (Digital video sellers would have a different side of the argument). Still, concerning cable, how can people expect marketers to suddenly pay really huge increases to cable to put them on par with the broadcasters? That has always been the rub.

Cable may have a psychological advantage if, as analysts say, it ends up a little ahead of broadcast this year. Of course, you are comparing apples and oranges. Cable represents some 70-odd ad supported cable networks, versus five or six broadcast networks.

Not only that, but on a network by network basis, total TV network advertising results speak clearer about what is going on.

According to Kantar Media, for the full year 2010, CBS held the top spot at $6.48 billion; ABC was next, $5.06 billion; NBC, $4.82 billion; Fox, $4.49 billion; and Univision, $1.87 billion. Well behind is the biggest cable network, ESPN, at $1.74 billion; TNT, comes next, $1.20 billion; USA Network, $1.1 billion; TBS, $890 million; and MTV, $820 million.

Cable may still be looking up. But it has some way to go when it comes to playing on an even advertising field with broadcast networks.

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1 comment about "Cable Networks Could Lead The Upfront -- But Still Be Behind ".
  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , April 22, 2011 at 3:35 p.m.

    Sometime in the late 80's, a media buyer believed the lower the number on the television dial, the better the station, shows and ratings. Blowing that off, let's think for a second about how the channels are arranged on the line-up. If all of the networks and cable drama channels were glopped together, the various sports stations et al would viewing habits shift, would ratings and following CPM's alter? Sure, a few people have the ability to shuffle favorites and all on the TV screen, but not nearly on a scalable level. And if the channels were grouped, would it then be more possible for consumers to demand that TV packages could be broken down into sections. Don't we all know some of the sections we would be happy to not have on our sets and not pay for? Then what would lead to a CPM change? In a few years, just think.....