Marketers sat on their wallets at this year's upfront, pushing networks into 20% declines. Negotiations dragged on for more than two months, and all were under tight wraps. Amid the secrecy,
what lessons did media buyers and marketers learn?
Donna Speciale, president at MediaVest, says bigger media buyers, like MediaVest, had a leg up this year because they didn't rely on information about other buyers' deals. "It was the smaller buyers who needed the information. If the secrecy continues, and I think it likely will, it's the smaller agencies that will suffer," she says. The good news is that vendors are now more open-minded in the negotiation process, she adds. "You can do more specific program buying, and your past buys don't influence current buys anymore." Negotiations also were across the board this year, no longer in the silos of broadcast, cable and syndication.
The press and Wall Street tend to focus too much on the upfront, Speciale cautions. "They use it as a barometer for the health of television media, but it's a faulty barometer. The upfront is only a two-month window. Media buyers, even now, still have a few weeks left to tweak deals. The upfront doesn't always reflect what happens throughout the rest of the year."