Upfront As A 'Futures' Market? Wall Street May Not Be Seeing It

The upfront marketplace has started up -- but you might be hard pressed to find any influence on Wall Street.

In the old days of strong TV upfront marketplaces, some Wall Street reaction to big advertising dollars “moving” would occur. For example, strong upfront pricing/volume could result in stock market price gains.

Wall Street investors typically make bets -- investments or not-- based on future indications. And the upfront TV market has always been a “futures” market to many. But what this means long-term for TV is increasingly less clear.

Thursday was the first real indication in the press the marketplace has started up. But Wall Street wasn’t really responding.

Some of this is because media companies are continue to diversify,  which tends to make it harder to track performance. But the other reason has been a weaker and more fractionalized market, where marketers -- while still buying TV ads -- are putting money in other new digital platforms, as well as buying more national TV in different ways and parts of the year.



In recent years, CBS has been looked at as a barometer because of its exposure to the advertising market. But where, in the past, advertising had represented around 70% of its revenues, today that figure is more like 50%.

More TV-advertising-focused cable network groups  -- AMC Networks, and Scripps Networks Interactive -- may be better indicators for some.

In that light, make  of this what you will: AMC went 1.9% higher on Thursday to $82.09; SNI was virtually flat -- up 0.02% to $66.67; and CBS inched up 0.7% on the day to $57.15.

Of the three, AMC has been tallying big advertising revenue percentage gains in recent reporting periods. Its Thursday’s results were a day removed from an analyst downgrading the stock to “hold” from a “buy.”

SNI, which witnessed big ad revenues growth in years past, has come back to earth with smaller improvements. CBS continues be a steady performer -- but continues to suffer, like other networks, from traditional TV viewing erosion.

And, just so you have some comparison, Netflix -- the subscription video-on-demand platform that doesn’t carry any advertising -- lost 2.1% on the day to $664.24.

If all this is a mixed message for the TV marketplace going forward, that is probably an accurate description of “future” upfront prospects.

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