"It's very strong," says Aaron Cohen, senior vice president of national broadcast for media buyer Horizon Media. "It usually doesn't start until after Labor Day."
Media buyers report that increases range from 12% to "nearly 100%" on some cable networks for some programs.
"Things are very strong; business is excellent," adds Rich Goldfarb, senior vice president of media sales for the National Geographic Channel.
Another positive sign: media buyers report the activity of converting upfront commitments to buy ad time for the coming season, called "holds," to actual orders is happening earlier than usual. In some seasons, the holds-to-order process can drag on into mid-September.
In softer TV ad market years, some marketers would drop holds and reconsider their long-term TV buys--but not this year. "Nothing has been pulled back," said one media-buying executive.
Some cable networks are seeing even bigger hikes than others--such as women-targeted networks Oxygen, SoapNet and WE. Some of this activity is from the spillover effect of limited-to-no-inventory in daytime broadcast and syndication dayparts, which is driving up prices.
TV marketers could be adding more than usual to their TV buys in the fourth quarter due to concerns over upfront C3 inked media deals--agreements inked with the guarantee of commercial ratings plus three days of DVR playback. The anxiety is that those deals may not deliver the same level of gross ratings points as live program ratings deals in previous years.
The rush of business this summer means an overlap of traditional TV business ad markets--upfront, fourth-quarter scatter and early calendar-year deals.
"We have late business for a dozen or so advertisers looking to add to their upfront deals. We are doing fourth-quarter deals. And we have our first calendar year registration," says Nat Geo's Goldfarb. "All before Labor Day."