Network Scatter Records Slight Uptick

TV's advertising scatter market -- to many still an all-important predictor of how the summer upfront marketplace will perform -- has been showing recent modest price gains for top TV networks versus earlier quarterly periods.

Media-buying executives say ABC and Fox has been holding -- and getting -- scatter pricing for the second quarter around 10% above upfront prices -- the CPMs set in June 2012. CBS and NBC are securing 5% hikes. Experts say CBS and NBC networks have generally a bit more inventory to sell, and ABC and Fox.

All major networks have seen an uptick in scatter pricing versus that of the two previous quarterly periods -- the fourth quarter of 2012 and the first quarter of this year -- where the scatter program pricing was predominantly weak.

"The [network] behavior has changed," says one veteran media-buying executive. "It's driven by a couple of things, a little more spending in the market -- not a lot -- and the ratings fallout, which has been huge factor."

One network executive said there is "healthy scatter [pricing] if you have the right programming."

Cable networks are getting somewhat lower price gains -- if any. "We've been able to get scatter inventory at upfront pricing levels, or a few percentage points higher," says another veteran media-buying executive.

Many major networks have have seen some significant rating declines versus a year ago. Overall broadcast networks are down 4% among 18-49 viewers in C3 through January -- in large part because of the fall program gains at NBC.

Although NBC has had recent ratings troubles, it was still up around 19% among Nielsen 18-49 viewers for C3 ratings (commercial ratings plus three days of time-shifted viewing) through the end of January versus the same time period the year before. CBS was down 16%; Fox was off 14%; ABC lost 7%; and CW slipped 10%.

Media-buying executives say total scatter volume -- actual dollars -- are down versus a year ago. CBS, ABC, Fox, NBC, and CW spokespersons had no comment.



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