The Upfront: Who Needs It?

I think that the upfront is totally irrelevant to today's business world. Our clients generally plan for the calendar year or a specific fiscal year. Virtually no advertiser plans for a "fictional" broadcast year, and it would be useful to remember that our clients are our and the networks' customers. It's kind of management 101 to make one's product or service more "user-friendly" today, and the industry will either wake up to this or clients will wake them up. I think now is the time to forego the upfront. Simply don't participate.

What do clients get from the upfront?

- A commitment to fourth-quarter programming that will likely never air;

- Commitments to the same and other programming in succeeding quarters that will also likely never air;

- An endless string of makegoods in unproven programming

- A few--a very few--units in proven high-rated programs

- A CPM guarantee much higher than any schedule is likely to deliver.



There is simply no upside to the upfront. Advantages go to the sellers.

Media buyers and their agencies get quite a lot from the upfront:

- A commitment of millions--often tens and hundreds of millions--of client dollars to ensure agency revenue throughout the coming year

- A network guarantee to ensure that the agency's rating projections and stewardship are not particularly important or challenging

The downside to ignoring the upfront is a possible upcharge of 10 percent in scatter and discount in opportunistic buys of 25-35 percent. Isn't this what buyers are or should be paid for? To find opportunities for clients and take on at least some risk based on their unique knowledge, skills, and expertise?

The upfront. Who needs it?

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