Scatter Sales Projects TV Getting Modest Rise In '07

Scatter prime-time ad sales have been good for network coffers in the fourth quarter--and that's expected to continue into the first quarter of 2007.

"It's very strong, very active," says one network executive, regarding estimated scatter sales activity for the first part of 2007.

Still, overall revenue projections are more sanguine--with TV pulling in a collective--and more modest--2% to 3% overall gain in revenue in the fourth quarter, versus 2005. Those numbers should continue into the new year.

"Broadcast networks will be at the lower end of that range, with cable networks somewhat higher," says Rino Scanzoni, chief investment officer at Group M and Mediaedge:cia. "Upfront money was flat to down, and then money resurfaced in the fourth quarter."

"I would expect this to continue into the first quarter," adds Scanzoni. "The expectations for the economy are pretty positive. Retailers have done well. You have Olympic money from Torino last year that will now make its way into the general TV marketplace [in the first quarter]." All that will drive up quarterly revenues for TV and cable networks.

Scanzoni estimates that networks sold more than usual in last spring's upfront market. With less inventory supply for the rest of the year, he believes that cost-per-thousand viewer [CPM] prices are still poised to gain somewhat.

Network executive report that pricing on prime-time programming grew anywhere from 5% to 10% in CPMs, versus that of the upfront. Evening-news programming and morning news shows posted higher numbers.

"The Today Show" is normally priced at around $60,000 for a spot, but has gone as high as $90,000. "Good Morning America" is priced around $40,000, with CBS grabbing about $25,000 to $30,000 per spot.

Even some dayparts such as late night--which in the years past has been weak--is now seeing good results.

According to a CBS spokeswoman, "Late Show With David Letterman" has been sold out in the fourth quarter and heavily sold in the first quarter, with prices in the fourth quarter higher than deals stuck during the upfront period.

"Late Show with David Letterman" typically gets around $50,000 for a 30-second commercial. NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" is higher at around $58,000 to $65,000.

Another media executive said "The Tonight Show" has been seeing 10% CPM gains during the period.