Upfront Ad Market Awaits: Place Your TV Bets

We hear the national TV ad market is coming back big -- per recent earnings calls of TV network groups. Is the market really seeing a sharp turn?

--Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal: “While the advertising market was hit hard, it is coming back more rapidly than we anticipated.”

--Ed Carroll, COO of AMC Networks, said the scatter market has been “relatively healthy.”

--David Zaslav, president/CEO of Discovery Inc: “We have seen a noticeable return of advertisers spending money against the TV marketplace, where economies have increasingly begun to open, particularly in Europe.”

Yes, we get the promise of media-selling executives doing their thing, talking up business. We sense that in lieu of making many long-term national TV advertising deals, vis-a-vis the upfront, many advertisers are slowly feeling their way around this market. After all, the fall season is full of uncertainty, including:



*Will there be enough traditional TV linear impressions to buy starting in the fourth quarter?
*Will TV networks find their way in getting new TV productions and content on the air?
*Will the lone, still high-rated NFL programming be a bigger attraction to a wider range of marketers, including female-targeted advertisers?
*What happens if there is -- as anticipated -- a major fall/winter spike of Covid-19 cases?
*How many more dramatic musical-chair moves will occur among senior TV/media executives?

TV marketers understand ad pullbacks are common in periods like this. But no one wants to be off-air at the precise and unpredictable moment the marketplace takes a sharp turn higher.

While no one wants to be forgotten, traditional TV marketers still need to come to terms with even more linear TV audience erosion in pandemic times, even as live, linear TV still has a sizable chunk of all TV-video impressions.

Marketers are no doubt buying scatter in the near term -- on a week-to-week, or month-to-month basis.
But -- going back to that moment of a sharp marketplace rise -- answer this question: When does it really make sense to buy long-term upfront premium inventory for the traditional September-to-August TV season?

Right now, TV budgets are slowly getting registered with TV networks. This doesn’t say much. Buying in this road-kill marketplace highway feels much more like gambling on research-weak instincts. Who’s feeling lucky?

1 comment about "Upfront Ad Market Awaits: Place Your TV Bets".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, August 25, 2020 at 9:50 a.m.

    At this point, Wayne, the "upfront" and "scatter" markets are fast becoming one with the sellers demanding CPM increases for "upfront" deals and when the buyers don't agree, moving their GRPs into scatter, where higher CPMs are customary. Another sticking point is the addition of out-of-home "viewing" data in the average commercial minute ratings to be put out by Nielsen. This adds 1-2 % to the average primetime entertainment show's audience and a lot more for sports but savvy buyers know that there is little chance that OOH "viewers" ---an assumed, not a measured, audience----pay much, if any attention to commercials. So they are discounting OOH "viewing"---another complication for the sellers..

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