How Will This Year's Upfront Be Different?

The Upfronts are upon us! The annual advertising ritual of buying and selling national ad time for the October-September broadcast year is taking a cue from the current media landscape and succumbing (ever-so-slightly) to the changes led by the growing tide of streaming. 

And allkey leading indicators (KLI) point to a healthy video upfront market: 

  • Healthy scatter market, diminishing supply, strong demand, and ROC (rate of change) +20%  
  • Publishers reaching sell-out levels across video 
  • Streaming impressions are not increasing as quickly as linear impressions are decreasing  
  • But, they’re still increasing, hence a migration to streaming 
  • Average time spent per day on video remains relatively flat, balanced by a fall in linear viewing and a rise on connected device usage. 



What changes in the 21/22 Upfront? The Upfront will become a video upfront. Linear-first publishers will bundle linear and digital video for a combined video guarantee, while some publishers will forgo traditional demo guarantees for broader Persons 2+ or Persons 18+ guarantees and the marketplace will expand to OTT (Over-the-Top) video publishers.  

What stays the same?  Always a constant, consumer demand for premium video content and the power of sight, sound, and motion to achieve brand objectives—whether they be awareness, consideration or conversion—will be the hottest commodities.   As video consumption evolves--placing the viewer in control of where, when and how they consume video content--marketers must evolve to adopt and deploy a holistic video approach.  Hence, the transformation to an upfront video marketplace.   

What can you expect from linear-first video publishers? 

  • To be bullish by commanding significant price increases.
  • Requiring an investment in both linear and digital video and providing a singular video guarantee. 
  • Flexibility to make good on under-delivery across their portfolio of networks, which may include networks that are not purchased. 
  • Resistance to transparency and accountability to access content aligned. with advertiser’s optimal video allocation strategies. 
  • Lack of Transparency in sharing their data as they create their own walled gardens. 

How advertisers should approach the Upfront?

  • Conduct a risk assessment to identify if or to what degree your business is comfortable investing in the Video Upfront and map out a holistic video strategy.
  • Reassess the role of video within your marketing mix.
  • Evaluate key publishers and the value each brings to your plan relative to their cost.
  • Finally, and most importantly, buy TV like you watch TV. It’s all video regardless of when, where and on what device it’s being watched.


1 comment about "How Will This Year's Upfront Be Different?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 10, 2021 at 5:36 p.m.

    Some interesting points but it's probably too late for anything big to happen in the upcoming upfront. Why? Because the brands at the 400-500 largest national TV advertisers have already specified what their "linear TV" GRP requirements are for the next season---by quarter, by network type and by daypart and most of their national TV ad dollars will be pooled into massive corporate "linear TV" buys which will amount to about 70% of the overal  total ad spend.This means that once again, CTV and AVOD are left to some individual brands  which are free of the corporate buying mandate and later, there may be some scastter buying action. But hardly a massive shift of "linear TV" ad dollars to CTV and AVOD.

    Why is this so? It's simple. The "linear TV" buying system is well established and the large TV brands are used to the system. But, a few execptions aside, that is not the case with CTV? AVOD. I wonder how many of the thousands of national brands at the 400-500 large companies were even given GRP/CPP modules for CTV and AVOD when they supplied their requirements for the next season---probably not that many. And where are most of the available ad GRPs to be found? You guessed it---mostly on "linear TV".

    CTV and AVOD have much to offer but if they continue to wait for the time buyers to sell their form of TV to the media planners and especially the client CMOs and brand managers they are simply whistling Dixie. Now is the time to start selling for the 2022-23 upfront.

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