Poll: Expect Big Upfront Changes, OTT Bundling In Future

Many expect upfront TV process will now change dramatically, due to COVID-19. But in what ways — and in reality — how soon?

Shifting budgets, flexibility, buying more near-term scatter versus year-long media deals, as well as moving to a calendar-year upfront, are all major topics for big brand advertisers.

But leaping into the weeds, we see veteran TV media executives focus on two of the most important issues, according to research from Pivotal Research Group: 1) The bundling of linear TV network deal making with top/digital media, and 2) changes in “guarantees.”

Concerning the latter — especially in the short-term — there could be changes for marketers where guarantees of audiences, which has been done for decades, could be focused more generally on a network overall.

A recent poll of media executives done by Pivotal says 67% of respondents believe there would be a “quarterly guarantee across a network, rather than for specific show/events.”



Some of this, no doubt, is due to concerns of TV production of shows for the fall TV season, especially with COVID-19 issues still growing in most regions of the country.

Michael Levine, senior research analyst of internet and media for Pivotal, writes: “To a degree upending the point of the TV upfront in the first place — caveat given COVID-19 disruptions to production — it will be challenging to have product to showcase.”

OTT bundling with linear? Sixty-seven percent believe OTT will be bundled into linear TV deals in 2021. Still, executive comments from the Pivotal poll are more skeptical:

-- “I see networks wanting this to happen, but I imagine brands and agencies will resist having to buy this way. They may bundle them at a discount, but enable line-by-line purchasing at a higher cost.” 

-- “Yes, 100% -- probably within two-to-three years once OTT measurement is better.”

On the other hand:

-- “There may be a push for that, but we see that the effectiveness of streaming, and to a lesser extent OTT, is weaker than TV... [We] wouldn't want them to be bundled for continuous buying with a campaign by campaign focus required.”

-- “No. More profitable to keep [them] separate.”

On that last point, many major legacy TV-media companies, such as NBCUniversal Advertising Sales and Disney Advertising Sales, say these options already exist. But who is really using it?

Let’s just state the obvious: The jury for all this is still out. Like way out. Like in the break room at the courthouse. They're not focused on the case at hand, but their struggle with the vending machine.

1 comment about "Poll: Expect Big Upfront Changes, OTT Bundling In Future".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, July 17, 2020 at 10:46 a.m.

    Wayne, I find it interesting that this poll found so many "media executives" thinking that the TV networks guarantee ratings on an event by event---or episode by episode-----basis and that we will see this change to overall network guarantees. Where have these poeple been for the last 40 years? No seller in his/her right mind would guarantee ratings on a show by show, episode by episode, basis. This would be nearly suicidal from a sales standpoint as you would be wrong---meaning undelivering---at least half the time and this would require make goods by the truckloads. Meanwhile, whenever you overdelivered you get no added income for the "bonus" viewers. LOL. In reality, the sellers have been guaranteeing only across entire packages of programs and episodes---usually by quarter---for a long time as this allows them to count all viewing regardless of whether a particular show over- or undelivered in audience.

    As far as combining "linear TV with digital TV/video audiences, that's great---but what do you use for an "audience" measurement that provides a meaningful indicator of comparability between the two? I wonder if the survey respondents had any ideas on this rather difficult question that, so far, remains unresolved.

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