Traditional TV Ad Market Is Slowly Coming Back -- Will The Upfront Follow?

Just in time for the new upfront period, TV media agency executives tout the marketplace is returning to some stability. Emphasis on the word "some."

Good news comes as movie studios and travel marketers, two heavily affected pandemic categories, are slowly spending more, according to one media agency executive -- at least in the second-quarter scatter market. The second quarter continues to be a highly watched period of how the upfront market might land.

The downside is a concern that automotive and retail spending may not deliver. Still -- considering the disruption, which hit the previous upfront market, there are hints of normal activity returning.



Now, factor in all the hype around premium video platform advertising.

Media agency executives are fairly sure TV networks will do everything possible to fuel and strongly encourage all ad-supported digital video efforts -- including Peacock, Paramount+, discovery+, AMC+ and the coming ad option for HBO Max. This also includes big broad-based platforms distributing TV networks and content: Disney’s Hulu + Live TV, ViacomCBS’ Pluto TV and Fox’s Tubi.

Some wrinkles here aren’t going away: The lack of real industry-wide cross-platform measurement standards and fraud.

Although the in-person live sports audience has yet to return to full strength, virtually all sports programming is back on the air, including the return of the NCAA Men’s College Basketball “March Madness” Tournament -- an event that was cancelled in 2020.

CBS and Turner networks, which air the tournament, say that this year things are almost back to normal. The event is “virtually sold out.” More importantly, CPMs are up and total advertising revenue looks to hit record levels.

For non-sports TV marketers, however, there probably is a big question mark regarding the direction of the entertainment programming front -- especially given the troubling makegood issue of the last several months.

In addition, long-term entertainment linear TV viewership continues to suffer -- as more viewers move to ad-supported video platforms, including premium video streaming platforms.

The industry has worried about linear TV erosion for decades. And we keep asking the question: Will there ever be a breaking point?  Marc Pritchard, CMO of Procter & Gamble, says it has arrived -- vis-a-vis the upfront TV ad-market transformation, starting last year.

Again, we have heard this before. Yet, considering the year everyone in the U.S. has had, where many believe all kinds of consumer and business behavior may be changing forever, one might suggest a TV advertising breaking point -- in part, or in whole -- may have also arrived.

Breaking bad?
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