ViacomCBS Chief: Upfront Expectations 'Off The Hook'

The near-term post-pandemic TV world is seeing sharply rising linear TV network demand, according to many TV ad-selling executives, all of which is good for the upfront ad market.

“It’s early in the upfront right now, but our upfront is going to be off the hook,” says Bob Bakish, president/CEO of ViacomCBS, speaking at a Evercore ISI industry event on Monday.

He says: “Scatter pricing is at all-time highs. We used to say that [a lot]. But it really is. There is nosebleed pricing out there.”
Bakish did not provide specific details, other than to say that the second quarter -- a longtime key barometer of the upfront market — is seeing “strong double-digit ad growth.”

This follows three previous quarters, which were also strong.

“If you look at the scatter market going in, it is ideal for an upfront because of all the demand and pricing we’re seeing.”



This upfront selling season will be a first true test of the combined ViacomCBS company — one that now includes an ad-supported option for streaming platform Paramount+, which launched this week.

A year ago, TV networks had to deal with a pandemic-disrupted TV market -- where marketers suspended many second-quarter TV deals. In addition, upfront market negotiations for the current 2020-2021 TV season were affected by TV production postponement and delays.

“We are seeing the benefit of truly going to market as a combined company. And that creates real advantage for us, because we have scale and reach both in high-quality, brand safe, digital environments and in the linear side,” says Bakish.

Just this week, Paramount+ launched a $4.99 ad-supported option of its streaming platform. It has — like most premium streaming efforts — a limited number of commercials, at around four to five minutes per hour.

As for the timing of the upfront? Bakish believes the market might move somewhat quickly. “I look forward to talking about it on the second-quarter call, when we will be in a place. My guess is — all the business is done.”

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