Commentary

New TV Upfront Markets: Early Or Late, But Always Moving

News flash: The upfront just ended. (Wait, it's mid-October!)

Actually just the Spanish-language network upfront ended -- according to one headline, which said the English-language TV networks still haven't closed some advertisers.

I'm buying pumpkins right now, and assembling my fall multi-colored leaf scrapbook.  What's going on?

Years ago a lot was made of TV upfront markets disappearing - that there wasn't a need for them. But there always is a need to buy TV stuff ahead of time.  More accurately, upfront markets just seem to be moving around the calendar.

The kids' upfront used to be completed in February; then April; more recently, late August. (Some kids' media buyers still insist there hasn't been a kids' upfront market for years). 

The bigger English-language TV upfront market used to be done in late May.  In the '70s, I'm told, they were completed in January! Now the big broadcast networks' upfront is getting done in late September.  This goes to what TV ad sales chiefs have said-- Jon Nesvig of Fox and Mike Shaw of ABC, in particular -- that they are open for making deals, of any length, year round.

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If this isn't enough, we still haven't seen the fourth quarter scatter market really start in earnest (and we are in the fourth quarter now!), according to some media buyers.

Confused? You should be. More importantly, the signals are increasing that one's TV media activities should move to the beat of its own drummer -- but not always.

Worried about buying that key position in that great young-female-skewing scripted finale? Maybe you can do it later -- or with another similar show just around the corner. Worried about getting in the finale of Fox's "American Idol" or a first quarter 'A' position in the NFL AFC championship game on CBS? Maybe you need to buy it ahead of time.

All of which brings us to those "calendar' year upfront cable network deals. That money may be starting to move now -- or not, depending on your definition of the word calendar.

1 comment about "New TV Upfront Markets: Early Or Late, But Always Moving".
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  1. Sheldon Senzon from JMS Media, Inc., October 8, 2009 at 3:52 p.m.

    Great post, humorous but factual as well. Even old habits eventually die, sometimes a slow and painful death. The current and immediate future business climate dictates shorter lead times for pulling the trigger, and besides, whatever happened to "Must See TV" on Thursday nights?

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