Upfront Stalls Over Commercial Ratings

The TV upfront advertising market is nowhere near to moving in the next few days--possibly not even next week.

Normally, TV buyers and sellers dance around whether they want to make some or most deals before the Memorial Day weekend--but not this year, say media-agency executives. Many predict a slow start up--a mid-to-late June time period for upfront deals to get moving.

A lot of the push back comes from having advertisers, TV programmers and media agencies trying to rally around one or a few key metrics, for TV ad deals. They have to decide what will be guaranteed in terms of viewers to marketers for the upcoming 2007-2008 broadcast season.

Then there's the Nielsen Media Research factor.

The big TV researcher has yet to come out with its minute-by-minute ratings--sometimes known as "commercial ratings"--which will be released at the end of the month. Despite the commercial-ratings issues, strength of the market will depend on core economics, say industry watchers, such as demand. Even then, prognosticators aren't in much agreement this year, offering wide-ranging estimates in sales performance.



A survey of industry analyses has the broadcast market, in total sales volume, down by as much as 10% to up to 3% versus a year ago. Cable's range could possibly be down 3% or up by 3%. More than a few estimators have a better consensus with syndication, saying the business will show definite improvements--up anywhere from 3% to 8%.

Currently, there is the likelihood that deals will be inked using a guarantee of commercial ratings plus three days of DVR playback for many broadcast network buys.

But it's less likely these deal points will be used by syndication, or especially for cable. Cable networks have been openly critical of major problems in looking at current minute-by-minute ratings.

Media executives are bracing for another long, hot summer. After all, fast-moving markets--ones that have been done in a matter of days--haven't occurred since the TV ad upfront for the 2000-2001 broadcast season. Other quick upfront markets sporadically took place in the 1990s.

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