Getting National TV Unmasked: Early Returns Improve, But Not Everywhere

This year’s TV upfront offered a resurgent marketplace, with 20% to 25% increases in the cost per thousand viewers.

All of which begs the question: Are there any advertising deals to be had on legacy TV? In part, it’s where you might expect it. But there are also some surprises.

Standard Media Index says the best low-priced, effective/delivered CPMs (eCPMS) for TV last season -- October 2020 through July 2021 -- were for cable TV news networks and broadcast daytime TV for adults 25-54.

CPMS show a modest price increase for cable TV news networks -- at $16, up 15% from the previous-year period, October 2019-2020. We understand much of TV news channels' gains -- given the hotly contested presidential election season and all that followed.

Somewhat more modestly priced was broadcast daytime programming -- at $15, just a 7% rise. Game shows, soap operas, court and talk shows are still a place to find viewers -- even if these shows’ demographic groups aren’t for all marketers. We believe that rising at-home pandemic viewing helped things along, to an extent.



A broader view of the 2020/2021 TV season for the 25-54 demographic shows broadcast prime time increasing 11% to an average $62 CPM, with broadcast late-night up 22% to $40 and broadcast evening news 19% higher to $29.

Currently, we don’t have broad visibility for the current 2021-2022 TV season that just started. But we do get a clue, even if the data is uneven at best.

Average TV commercial unit pricing for Fox’s “The Masked Singer” is 6% more in scatter to $286,000 over upfront deals made in May. That shows a strong marketplace gain. When combined upfront/scatter deals are analyzed, SMI says there was an 8% gain to $163,000, on average versus a year ago.

Even the stalwart “Grey’s Anatomy” witnessed a 10% boost to $110,000 in upfront deal-making in May.

This is not a complete picture. For example, “The Masked Singer” showed an average 8% decline in unit pricing to $229,000 looking at the upfront 2021 versus upfront 2020. Scatter pricing for “The Voice'' dropped 8% in early fall scatter deals to $184,000 versus the same period a year ago.

All of which says the marketplace has been improving. But when getting granular among the traditional broadcast primetime inventory -- even with viewer additions on OTT/CTV -- there is not a complete market surge in all areas.

We know the pandemic yielded lots of disruption in program production, among many other places. With that in mind, perhaps we need to wait at least until the end of this season to have a clearer picture.

We need essentially to unmask the TV upfront ad market the next time around. The jury is still out until May/June 2022, when we find out who’s singing.

This story has been updated.

2 comments about "Getting National TV Unmasked: Early Returns Improve, But Not Everywhere".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 20, 2021 at 5:55 p.m.

    Wayne, are those CPMs you quoted for broadcast TV network day, evening news, prime and late night for adults 25-54 or 18-49?

  2. Christi Uban from Marketing Architects replied, October 27, 2021 at 3:41 p.m.

    Ed, just sent you an email. Let's connect and we can chat more about this. 

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