Bill Abbott -- president/CEO of Crown Media Holdings, which owns the Hallmark Channel and has a deal with Google TV Ads to sell some of Hallmark's TV ad time -- says there are no agreements on price, a key deal point in any upfront negotiation.
"We haven't seen anything yet," says Abbott, who notes that the Google commitments are kind of like a media agency registering its TV budgets with networks/programmers. It's a far cry from any real upfront activity.
Two agencies -- Deutsch and Zenith Media Services -- reportedly are committed to deals with Google TV Ads, which in addition to Hallmark, is also selling TV time on Bloomberg network, Dish Network and some fringe NBC cable networks.
Google TV Ads group is based on an automated online bidding/buying system where media-buying executives can establish the price they want -- expected to be well-under market prices. Media-selling executives then determine if the price is right for the deals to go ahead.
Peter Gardiner, chief marketing officer with Deutsch, has confirmed a deal with Google, reportedly in the seven-figure arena.
What does this news say about the TV ad marketplace for the new season? "It's hardly the start of the upfront market!" notes Abbott. Still, he says, the deal with Google has little risk and some upside. "Nothing ventured; nothing gained," he adds.
Many TV sellers have been looking to Google to make deals for hard-to-sell inventory in specific dayparts, such as overnight and daytime programming.
Some media executives wonder why a system seemingly constructed for buying TV on a short-term, day-to-day basis -- as Google's system has been envisioned to be -- would be used by agencies to buy on a longer-term upfront basis, where TV advertisers usually commit 75% of their national TV media to a season's worth TV shows and networks.
"There's a little PR spin going on here," says one media executive.
Google executives did not return messages by press time.