Worried About Fragmentation? Break Up -- Or Make Up -- A New Upfront

NBC Universal will pool its upfront presentationsinto one day for its 17 cable networks, including USA, Bravo, Syfy, E!, Oxygen and Esquire.

Why? Media buyers and advertising executives don’t always have time to go 17 individual events.

Linda Yaccarino, president of advertising sales for NBCUniversal says that, in light of all the fragmentation of TV and media in general, it makes sense to give executives an easier way of dealing with lots of networks.

But all those networks can now only give a cliff notes approach to buying executives. That would seem to minimize the impact for NBC’s bigger, more revenue-generating cable networks like USA, which previously got its own presentation during upfront week.

Fractionalization is just for some, however, as the NBC Television Network will still get its own presentation. Some analysts may wonder why, since NBC and other broadcast networks continue to see overall viewership erosion. Harsher critics have said that some low-rated broadcast networks are more like cable networks and should be treated as such.



NBC has tried to downscale its upfront presentations in the past, especially by eliminating after-parties. Other networks such as ABC and CBS have made similar cutbacks, starting with the Great Recession around 2009.  Still others like Fox continue to produce big flashy presentations and parties afterwards.

NBC said the combined cable presentation is a way to “aggregate” its networks for media buyers. That can also mean big package upfront deals for some- that can attract advertisers at different levels.  

But bigger deals are complicated, pushing media buyers to prod and poke them to see exactly what they are getting. For example:

-- “You want me to play higher CPMs on a cable network? Sure, but give me a lower CPM on your broadcast network.”

--  Or, “You want me to buy ‘Modern Family’ on USA Network at very high CPM hikes. Sure, then give me lower prices on other USA Network programming, maybe even lower prices on NBC.”

While NBC seemingly wants to streamline its process for advertisers, it also doesn’t want to drop the ball on smaller details. So there will still be other briefings for journalists and buying executives to fill in the blanks -- fragmenting and aggregating all the information as needed.

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