Film Companies At Upfront Ready For Their Close-up

Do movie companies have the upper hand in this upfront?

While networks have been circling the wagons around the deal-making viewer metric of commercial ratings and three days of DVR playback usage, all admit they will have to make some concessions in this upfront when it comes to movie companies.

Few would demand enforcement of the three-day rule for a movie commercial that runs on Thursday night for a movie opening the next day.

Many networks can ill afford to get on the wrong side of the business that contributes hundreds of millions into the coffers of network advertising sales -- at rates that are far higher than any other category.

Here’s another reason to tread easy: While there may be good creative for some individual consumer products, none are as consistently entertaining as a movie trailer. That could give movie companies a leg up -- especially in a world that looks at commercial ratings, not TV program ratings. It could help a network sell other commercials that follow a movie commercial.



For movie companies, the focus is the highly prized and priced “A” commercial position -- the first commercial that runs in a commercial pod.

Some analysts might deem those movie spots as the better lead-in for other commercials that follow -- in the “B,” “C,” “D” commercial positions, for example. More boring creative -- whether for toilet bowl cleaners, financial services, or bowler hats -- would fight to run right after movie spots.

Movie companies have another advantage because they are typically the first advertising category -- along with automobiles -- to strike deals in the upfront. Networks like to set TV commercials rates high, and movie companies, because of their ever-changing media plans, pay more for the privilege.

Media buyers say one network, ABC, has been pitching combination deals --where the first two or three weeks of a movie campaign is guaranteed, on average, commercial ratings plus seven days of DVR playback, while the last week of the campaign, right before the movie opens, could be sold on a commercial rating plus same day. Media executive worry that doing media posts this way will get that much more complicated to sort out.

Still another scenario, according to a movie marketing executive at a large studio, could have a network guaranteeing different metrics leading up to a movie’s opening on a particular Friday -- say live plus three days on a Monday before a movie opening; then live plus two days on Tuesday, then live plus one day on Wednesday, and so on.

Are movie companies ready to move this week? Yes, but the networks might not be ready.  “No one has asked me to cancel my Memorial Day plans,” said one executive, a usual indication the networks are in no rush, meaning perhaps a long, hot summer.

But for film companies, it could also mean a long, dramatic fall, with many of their commercials running right next to prime-time TV programming.



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