Body-Slamming The Upfront? Maybe Just A Full-Nelson

Wrestling with the idea of your next upfront move? Try not to body slam your favorite media executive -- or perhaps your favorite upfront TV business reporter.

“I am sick and tired of you guys! The last time you came in here, you did the same thing!”

No, those words didn’t come out of any pre-upfront media planning meeting. It came from recent GOP candidate running for Congress from Montana, from a recording of a slammed reporter from the U.K. newspaper The Guardian. That candidate won, by the way.

Fortunately, TV network sales executives are not like any candidates running for Congress. But surely, it may be tough going for big TV advertising selling this season; executives might feel jumpy.

The upfront is pegged to be slightly up in volume versus a year ago -- maybe 1%, with some solid mid-single-digit percentage hikes among the measure everyone still keeps an eye on -- the cost per thousand viewers.

Increasingly expect a little shift -- with more impressions and money going to ad-supported digital TV outlets that run premium TV programming, the big cable and broadcast networks fare.



A bigger question: How much of those deals will be linked to more specific business measures? That’s the $20 billion question, which is roughly the current total national TV upfront revenue level attained over the last several years.

Better still: Will any of these business measures be “guaranteed”? No doubt, that is something not even TV networks executive could offer -- not with a variety of complex media and selling factors to consider, stuff that is out of there control.

But some shifts are coming with business metrics. Standardizing new audience segments -- something Fox Networks Group, Viacom and Turner are working on via the Open AP consortium -- is a step in the right direction.

Media agency executives might worry about future changes. But which marketers really want to abandon price/volume “bases” -- legacy pricing data -- that ongoing upfront brands have held onto for many years?

If your longtime low CPMs bases go up gradually -- and perhaps not even to “average” market levels -- who would leave that?

Still other might say, if moving to other metrics shows some significant and obvious business gains -- even if the media costs rise somewhat— its something marketing executives can bring to their higher ups.

Right now, there’s no need for a hard-core, take-no-prisioners wrestling move. Maybe just a friendlier bear hug.

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