Marketplace information takes on weird value in unstable economies -- and the TV upfront marketplace is no exception. Media executives increasingly have questions about business stories on the key selling periods of TV advertising. Execs are worried that stories on the upfront market may be too revealing of specific deal points, or just plain wrong.
A chill is coming over future TV productions -- and it isn't just the economy. Now the Supreme Court is piling on -- a victory for the Federal Communications Commission. The so-called "fleeting expletive" on broadcasts will now be subject to regulation and fines.
The digital threat to traditional television still isn't coming anytime soon -- not in 2009, or 2010, or 2011. In three years, traditional TV will still be consumed "98 times" more than online video -- this from a new Magna forecast of online video. And, as everyone's knows, it's not just in consumption that traditional TV is leading; big brand advertisers aren't spending much with online video.
Flexibility seems to be this year's upfront calling card for TV marketers. It's not just lower cost-per-thousand-viewer prices. Marketers increasingly want to come and go as they please with little penalty or premium, being able to fully adjust their TV commercial schedules.
Even those beneficiaries of the DVR-affected television world are complaining about weak TV advertising. Mark Burnett, creator of "The Apprentice," says network television advertising executives really don't understand branded entertainment/product placement. They don't get the full impact of what reality shows can do for marketers - and don't get firsthand intel about the process, he says. Reading between the lines: not enough branded entertainment money is coming Burnett's way, or that of his fellow reality TV producers.
Don't sing that old song about television viewer fragmentation; one of TV's biggest stars will have none of it. "American Idol"'s Simon Cowell doesn't buy the fact that all TV shows have to decline. Just look at the Super Bowl, he says. Both "Idol" and the Super Bowl are competition shows -- very much reality television. For the last two years, the Super Bowl has indeed bucked the trend, with record-setting overall viewer performances. All this has Cowell thinking -- why not "Idol"?
Will there be a widespread shortage of national commercial TV inventory for sale this upfront period? A broad range of TV sales executives -- from broadcast to cable to syndication -- are already toying with using the ultimate supply-and-demand sales tool: selling less inventory to maintain pricing.
The Federal Communications Commission wants to institute ratings for inappropriate commercials -- just as it does for TV programming -- with the ultimate intent of letting viewers block TV commercials overall using the V-chip.
The court battle between Comcast and the NFL Network can be filtered down into some ambiguous territory: What future programming might be popular with consumers? From the NFL Network's point of view, it's simple: Put us on everywhere and we'll get big ratings -- even if we are only airing a handful of live football games over the course of 365 days a year. And, you -- the cable operator - will make money selling advertising locally. From Comcast's point of view, it's simple: The NFL's price is too high for a handful of live games, which is the real …
Upfront market questions keep media analysts awake at night this time of year. Maybe what we need is a good night's sleep -- until around August. That's how long this marketplace could last, with TV sellers bracing for a long march into the summer heat. No one is rushing to make deals.