Network Upfront Was Flatter, But Scatter Is Fatter

The upfront ad market may have been a weak affair, with declining prices and revenue volume. But the fourth-quarter scatter market is showing signs of life.

"We are way ahead of where we were a year ago," says Bill Morningstar, executive vice president of advertising sales for The CW. The new network, launching Sept. 20, combines parts of the now-defunct The WB and UPN. Morningstar, who had run The WB's ad sales division, wouldn't go into specifics on pricing or revenue goals for the period.

Still, Morningstar cautions that the trend is an early one. The next several weeks will determine whether it continues.

Program pricing in last year's fourth-quarter scatter market--and subsequent periods in the 2005-2006 season--were flat in terms of pricing against the upfront program deals. Scatter pricing over the past several years has been relatively the same as upfront pricing.

Morningstar adds that the traditional process of turning upfront advertising "holds"--year-long ad commitments made this past summer--into orders has been going slowly, which was expected. This has been the case for the last few years.



"It's a non-story," Morningstar says. "All clients now want to wait until the last minute." He says he knows of no major TV advertisers dropping any "holds."

One agency executive says his firm has zero deals actually signed and closed. "Everything ran late this year, so it's not too surprising that this is running a bit later as well. We have every anticipation that things will go through as planned."

Although Fox has already debuted some fresh programming for the fall, the new TV season--in terms of seasonal ratings--starts next Monday, according to Nielsen Media Research.

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