TV Q4 Scatter Market Flat, Political Money May Help

The TV scatter advertising market continues to struggle -- and for many media-buying executives, it seems to show little to no growth for the rest of the year.

Media executives say fourth-quarter prices are flat to slightly higher than the upfront buying period just concluded this summer. This comes after a "very soft" third-quarter market resulting from heavy Summer Olympic ad-spending activity.

This scatter fourth-quarter period seems to resemble that of a year ago -- when pricing was also weak relative to the 2011 upfront. It was in that upfront that pricing soared to 12% to 15% levels versus 2010. Typically strong-priced, well-sold upfront sales are followed by slower-moving scatter markets. But added to this is the still-iffy state of the economy.

"You have the economy where there is still a lot of uncertainty," says Gary Carr, senior vice president and executive director of national broadcast for media agency TargetCast tcm. "There was a fair amount of inventory sold in the upfront. We are only in the middle of September. Maybe people are waiting until after the election."

"If advertising grew at a constant steady rate, you might think scatter would be stronger than we are currently seeing. But for a myriad of reasons, things are slowing and scatter is soft," says Ira Berger, brand media director of The Richards Group.

Another media executive says TV networks are hoping to see somewhat of a resurgence in October. "They are hoping for some political money," says Jason Kanefsky, executive vice president and director of strategic investments of media agency MPG North America.

The last time the fourth-quarter scatter period -- which begins the TV season -- had a strong ad marketplace was in 2010, where skyrocketing prices soared 20% to 25% and more over upfront pricing. This came after a relatively modestly higher upfront market in the summer of 2010. Advertisers were spending heavily following the deep recessionary economy of 2009.

The current third quarter of this year has seen weak activity because of expected sports programming offerings. "The Olympics sucked a lot of money out of the market," says Carr. Many major media company executives have confirmed this.

Recently, those senior executives from Time Warner and Walt Disney have been more optimistic for the rest of the year -- saying that generally third-quarter advertising sales will be around flat at best, but rise substantially for the rest of the year.



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