GM Takes Stand At Upfront, Puts Brakes On Ad Pricing
TV’s upfront ad market is winding its way to a mostly predictable conclusion for the broadcasters, with Fox and ABC almost completing their respective sales activity. CBS and NBC are a bit further behind, and CW has finished with its upfront efforts.
Still, one major car manufacturer -- General Motors -- continues to make a dramatic stand.
Media buyers say the big automotive maker has been at a stalemate with CBS, and possibly NBC -- which reportedly follows one it has been having at Fox over pricing.
General Motors still seems on the outs with most networks because -- according to media executives -- it has directed its new media agency Carat USA to ask for big rollbacks, and some double-digit decreases on pricing.
Even without GM, overall estimates are that CBS is leading the market -- as it predicted -- when it comes to price gains. But media buyers say it is not getting 10% plus price increases for CPMs for the majority of its deal-making.
Media executives believe CBS is averaging around 8% hikes -- still more than anyone else. Behind CBS, media analysts believe Fox is around a 7% price increase number, with ABC at around 6% and NBC about 5% to 5.5%. The CW has had 7% hikes -- selling around 75% of its inventory, according to media executives.
Network spokespersons would not comment about any current upfront activity. A GM executive had no comment.
Much of the effort for GM -- one of the largest TV advertisers -- revolves around major sports events such as the NFL and the NCAA, which have benefited from steady price hikes over the years. Even non-sports TV prime-time inventory has seen dips. Both Fox and CBS are big NFL players. So is NBC with “Sunday Night Football."
Last year, according to Kantar Media, just about 50% of GM national TV dollars went to sports: $274.4 million. Non-sports programming on network TV was at $288.9 million, for a total of $563.3 million in yearly media dollars on broadcast network television.
GM’s media spending on cable networks is approximately at the same levels, where sports TV comprises 54% of all its media spending -- $153.0 million for sports and $130.0 million for non-sports, totaling $282.9 million. Spanish-language networks have grabbed $43.1 million or 68% of total Spanish-language media dollars. Overall, GM bought $159.7 million in media for NFL football in 2011.
Overall, estimates are that GM spends around $20 million to $25 million on each of the major broadcast networks.
Estimates are that five English-language broadcast networks could pull down some $9.5 billion -- up 2% to 3% in total upfront, with the cable networks getting perhaps a 4% bump to $9.7 billion. There are some 60-plus ad-supported cable TV networks. Most of the broadcast part of the upfront selling process will be completed by this week.
TV marketers are now registering budgets for most of the top cable networks. Sources say much of this activity will close next week, with national syndication companies also becoming more active in negotiation.
NBC and its big collection of cable networks, including USA, Syfy, Bravo, and others, are looking for major gains, according to media buyers -- around 10% for USA Network, for example. Turner Broadcasting channels are focused on 8% hikes.
Previously, Viacom’s networks including MTV, Comedy Central, and others made upfront deals early in the process -- something it has done in years past. Many analysts believe price hikes are somewhat lower than the industry overall -- in the 4% to 5% range.