Commentary

Digital Upfront Dollars: Another Viewership-Revenue Imbalance?

For cable networks and their longtime complaining about proper share of advertising revenues, the tables may have turned--at least for a moment--this upfront season.

Cable executives have always complained that their actual viewership delivery never matches the dollars they received from marketers--that is, they were getting less than they deserved.

But in this upfront, there has surfaced perhaps another uneven change. The euphoria over the digital platform has the formula working in reverse, with digital vendors getting more money than their viewership/audience warrants, say media buying executives.

One senior media agency executive complained that the deal that OMD made with MTV reminded him of this dynamic--especially this part: that 10 percent of the $300 million plus revenue deal would go for digital platforms.  He said this would seem like too much money for a market that is barely developed, one that doesn't have good retainable viewership, one where measurement is still suspect.

Is this cable's final Trojan horse to win the revenue-viewership imbalance?

As we all know, in any of these deals, it depends on the bookkeepers. What is accounted for in the digital column may not be accounted for in the cable-advertising column--kind of like doing a Super Bowl deal at the same time as doing a regular season NFL deal and/or a general upfront deal. It depends on who is reading and writing the books. That's why both sides can call it win-win.

What about broadcast networks and digital platforms?  The media executive didn't say-- only that some broadcast networks may be pushing too hard for digital. That could be one reason (in addition to the general weak marketplace and marketers holding back money for in-season advertising opportunities) that traditional linear network upfront sales now look like a new person learning to drive: start and stop; start and stop.

Should the resulting upfront mean more negatives in the CPM column, that'll be the Faustian choice for network advertising sales chiefs. 

But if there are negatives for cable networks, all those digital dollars will make for a positive experience.

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