Q4 Scatter Suggests Few Price Hikes

The fourth-quarter scatter market has not begun in earnest -- but early signs point to weak-to-modest activity with little in the way of substantial price hikes.

“It always depends on the network, but scatter pricing in the fourth quarter is not much above upfront,” says Gary Carr, senior vice president and executive director of national broadcast for media agency TargetCast tcm.

Upfront activity concluded somewhat late this year, with ABC and NBC finishing up in late July, with many networks -- both broadcast and cable -- getting modest mid-single to stronger high-single-digit percentage price gains from a year ago.

Media analysts say it will be a tough market to read as marketers make last-minute decisions. “We will continue to see real-time scatter marketplace media buys closer and closer to the air date,” says Jackie Kulesza, senior vice president/broadcast activation director at Starcom USA.



Kulesza says while the upfront was finished late into the summer, that should not affect the scatter marketplace -- or the upfront sell-out levels. Kulesza says broadcast networks' sell-out levels of upfront inventory were similar to what was sold a year ago.  

“A big determining factor is how the network and the cable networks deliver,” she says.

Normally, media agencies for the last several years have expected around 5% to 7% viewership erosion for most TV broadcast networks -- somewhat less for cable networks. In recent years, mature cable networks have also been seeing broadcast-like erosion, with midsize and small networks improving audiences.

Another media-buying executive generally agreed with this assessment: “Clients usually wait to see how the new shows do -- so there is not a lot of activity nationally or locally. I haven’t heard about any major budget shifts or dropped holds. It does feel a lot like last year.”

A major TV cable ad executive was more optimistic about pricing and volume during the upcoming scatter market: Hard to be definitive right now. I would guess it starts at 5% plus to upfront [prices] and works its way up a little. Probably not double-digit increases for scatter, though.”

Still others believe upfront pricing gains were too high to begin with -- which will put downward pressure on the scatter market for the entire 2013-2014 broadcast TV season.

"I don't think you're going to see a very strong scatter marketplace,” said Rino Scanzoni, chief investment officer of Group M speaking to B&C, a TV industry publication back in August. “The price points early on were probably higher than what they should have been.”

Cable networks added 3% in volume to around $9.6 billion to $9.8 billion according to media executives; with broadcast networks down 5% or so in volume to around $9.1 billion to $9.3 billion.

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