4Q TV Scatter Down Vs. Strong Sales In Upfront

Fourth-quarter national TV scatter market pricing appears to be mostly flat to soft -- in terms of pricing and dollar volume -- say media executives. Outer selling periods could be weaker.

Much of this comes with little surprise, according to executives, considering the strong upfront market this past June, which gave big national TV networks -- broadcast and cable networks -- hefty 10% to 15% increases on CPMs.

"There is less scatter volume because everyone is better sold," says one senior cable advertising sales executive. Broadcast networks sold upwards of 80% of their inventory of commercials, generally higher than in previous upfront markets. This executive believes overall scatter volume in the fourth quarter will probably be down 20% versus the same time period of a year ago.

"There is not a lot of money working," says another veteran media agency executive. "Money moved forward, into the upfront market."

That executive says some "scatter" deals -- even recently -- are being rolled into upfront deals, which effectively are giving TV marketers "flat" pricing -- that is, the exact same pricing as that of the upfront deals.



Another executive says that prime-time programming -- for some broadcast networks -- is getting slight single-digit increases to the pricing on the upfront. But those TV marketers are also getting ratings guarantees. Typically, networks don't offer scatter deals with viewership guarantees -- only for upfront deals.

Higher-priced scatter deals can be found with sports programming -- especially the NFL, where viewership has been strong and consistent, as well as the NCAA.

Media executives say the first real test will come at the end of the first quarter of 2012, when marketers can then decide whether to cut back on up to 50% of their upfront buys made for second-quarter 2012. The second-quarter TV volume is typically the largest volume of media dollars.

Overall, buyers suggest that outer buying quarters -- first, second and third periods -- could be even softer than the fourth quarter.

In non-prime dayparts, things may be better for advertisers. Media buying executives report getting flat pricing without aggressive negotiations.

Still, one TV media selling executive is optimistic -- saying right now the TV advertising market is a "counter indicator to the economy at large," which has been weak. Marketers still need to sell, he says.

Next story loading loading..