May, The Month Of TV Surprises

It's May, and in TV land, that means a time to surprise. Networks hope advertisers will do the same.

No one expected Chris Daughtry to be blown off "American Idol." No one expected Ana-Lucia Cortez (played by Michelle Rodriguez) to be blown away by Michael Dawson (Harold Perrineau Jr.) in "Lost."

May is the finale-season--season finale, series finales, and just plain putting the brakes on TV shows that no one wants to see anymore. For advertisers right now, it's also finale time--as they make their final preparations to commence spending billions of dollars in a period of a week or two.

Networks are also in finale mode. They have basically done all their projections and are ready to pounce in a variety of ways.

NBC, for one, will be ready to move--but it'll still need to wait for ABC, the big kahuna, to move.  NBC will hope to at least maintain its $2 billion take of a year ago. It dropped some $900 million in the upfront last year versus the 2004 upfront market.  The problem: NBC is still the big cheese when it comes to average pricing of the cost per thousand 18-49 viewers.



Despite all the talk about advertising moving to the digital space, the game is somewhat predictable. The market leader--this time ABC--will set the bar, and everyone will follow underneath. That means not just NBC, CBS and the rest, but cable networks and syndicators as well.

Advertising demand is another story: that could be the real surprise. The economy grew at a strong 4.8 percent rate during the most recent quarter. The Fed is raising interest rates again because it believes the economy still could get overheated.

 Could there be a good bombshell for the networks--in the face of lukewarm scatter markets that seemingly suggest modest increases?  In about a week, we'll know if the surprises will also come offscreen. 

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