ViacomCBS Chief: Upfront Ad Market 'Very Far Along'

Bob Bakish, president and CEO of ViacomCBS, says the upfront advertising market is going well, although he offered few details.

“On the upfront, things are very, very far along,” said Bakish, speaking at a Bank of America virtual media conference on Wednesday. “We always thought it would take longer and it did.”

He added: “We're feeling great about where things are shaping out both on volume and on price... Relative to what we feared we might be looking at just a couple of months ago, [it’s] in good shape.”

Due to COVID-19 pandemic-related disruptions that caused advertisers to delay or cancel media schedules, TV networks were estimated to witness sharp 25% to 30% declines in national TV advertising in the second quarter.

For this upfront market, media agency executives have been pushing for slight declines or flat pricing for their TV advertising clients when it comes to the cost per thousand viewers (CPMs) versus the pricing of a year ago.



At the same time, TV networks are hoping to negotiate flat or slightly higher pricing versus the upfront market of a year ago, according to executives. TV networks are also offering, according to reports, easier media schedule cancellation/change terms for this upfront marketplace.

Traditionally, the upfront advertising market begins around the beginning of June and finishes in late July/early August. The upfront is where marketers commit to buying up to 12 months of advertising time before the TV season begins in September.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted much of this activity, compounded by delayed production of TV shows that start in the fall.

Concerning the current month-to-month buying of national TV advertising -- the 'scatter market' -- Bakish says: “In general [the] scatter market is very strong on the broadcast side and cable has been picking up nicely, particularly relative to what we saw in the second quarter.”

In the third quarter, he says, the broadcast scatter market pricing is up by “double-digit” percentages.

With regard to ViacomCBS’s owned local TV stations, Bakish said: “You look at local -- which was probably the hardest-hit of the ad markets -- [it] continues to improve sequentially in the third quarter, with improvement across all categories. And by all I mean retail, auto and services.
Political advertising is also seeing strong results.

Bakish expects “normal” spending levels to return by the first half of 2021.
1 comment about "ViacomCBS Chief: Upfront Ad Market 'Very Far Along'".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 10, 2020 at 12:27 p.m.

    Now it starts. The sellers will soon flood the trade press and other forums with statements about how well their upfront sales are going-----followed by buyer comments to the contrary. Sigh! Nothing ever changes.

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