TV Upfront: More C7 Time-Shifted Deals, Digital Video Makes Headway

Much of this year’s upfront market seems to head into the same direction as a year ago -- with modest program price increases being the headline.

Already, some media agency units are weighing in, such as Interpublic’s MagnaGlobal unit, which believes the broadcast networks will continue to lose overall volume ground -- perhaps down 2% to 3% or so (from its low $9 billion or so take a year ago), with cable networks moving more to the upside, adding on 4% to 5% (from its $9.5 million upfront grab).

Overall, it expects slightly more money to flow into traditional TV upfront coffers -- about 1% more. Last year, around $22 billion was spent on broadcast network, cable network, and in national syndication programming, according to other estimates.

But what about structural changes -- with making marketers pay for additional time-shifted programming -- from programs viewed beyond three days via TV homes own DVR units, advertising in video on demand services or advertising on network’s premium TV content on digital platforms?

This continues to be a glacially moving process. Many proponents will talk up the push for a more seamless TV advertising based strategy. But much will  still hinge on the powerful traditional TV advertising formats that TV marketers cling to. All this at the same time it experiments on other video advertising spending.

More digital video upfront revenue? Yes, there will be some. Some will point to Interpublic’s MagnaGlobal  “upfront” deal made with Google back in February -- some $100 million, according to reports. But how much will be devoted to digital video, or search, or display? That hasn’t been revealed.

What we do know is that 3% to 5% -- at best -- of all TV/video viewing in the U.S goes to digital platforms. That still mean 95% to 98% reside on traditional TV platforms.

Leaving out measurement, guaranteed impression and viewability issues for the moment, that still means traditional TV networks hold a lot of the cards.

Near term, any significant revenue changes will come from TV networks trying to get marketers to pay for more time-shifted viewing -- from TV users’ DVR machines and/or cloud services.

For the last two years, all networks have made what they describe as a “handful” of C7 deals -- this versus hundreds of C3-based upfront deals TV network typically make.  

So expect some more C7 deals -- commercial ratings plus seven days of time-shifted viewing. Still, the vast majority of upfront deals looked to be centered around C3 deals -- commercial ratings plus three days of time shifted viewing.

Looking for some big surprises, some original thinking? Networks would like to see some. But marketers may just want -- and get -- mostly a repeat episode.

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