TV's Upfront: The Force Is With You

This much is true: fewer millions will be spent in TV's advertising upfront market this year. But with billions still spent in a short time frame--like a scheduled tsunami--this clout, combined with speed, means the upfront will be around for some time to come.

Yesterday's ABC announcement that it was backing off its effort to include DVR viewing might have been a way to give sellers more clout. Instead, the clout was clipped.  In a weak market, media buyers hold the cards.

No matter. All broadcast networks will try again next year, looking to grow the clout, with minute-by-minute ratings.

Give ABC credit for being passionate, adding drama to the mundane chore of upfront business.  But even with all of this, ABC will lead in the market in terms of marketers' desires for top-rated programming.



A few years ago cable, and even some syndicator programmers, were able to make significant deals before the broadcast market commenced. But that's not really leading the market, where one network actually sets the price, one that marketers analyze closely.

Cable networks, however, won't be the leaders anytime soon. Nor, too, will any syndicator programming. You can also forget iTunes or Google or Yahoo leading the TV upfront attack.

It's all about clout--and fast clout at that. Broadcast networks still pull in more than  anyone else--even if marketers are taking out millions each year.

For instance, the $9 billion upfront isn't all that. Last year, according to media executives, that number was really $8.7 billion--or even as low as $8.4 billion. At its highest, the upfront maybe was at $9.3 billion a couple of years ago.

So the upfront is seemingly trending down. But even $7 billion carries a lot of weight-- especially if that money is spent in a week or two.  The three-days-and-nights upfronts of recent years, where billions and billions are spent, carries this shock-and-awe impact of the power of TV for marketers. Even $6 billion over a two-week period has some force.

The TV upfront force is always with you.

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