NBCU Group M Deal Wrapped?
NBC Universal has completed the first deal of the 2009 upfront with WPP’s Group M according to multiple sources. Well-placed executives suggest that NBC Universal has accepted a seven point average CPM decline on the broadcast network and a three point roll-back across its cable properties.A spokesperson for NBC Universal said the deal is not complete but otherwise declined comment on any of the detail. A Group M spokesperson said no deal has yet been completed with NBCU. (Click here for complete upfront coverage.)
One executive suggested the network end of the deal involves two separate CPM agreements, one that would see NBC Universal taking a higher CPM on its 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. programming. This would make sense, as buyers across the business have lobbied hard against paying primetime pricing on the 10 p.m. Jay Leno show if only because the variety show is expected to rate below other programs in that hour. NBC’s upfront programming line-up for 2009-2010, however, was generally well received.
Several sales side executives expressed surprise at the extent of the network roll-back saying it was more aggressive then they had expected, but pointed out that NBC Universal would almost certainly be getting more dollar volume in return. Another ad buyer said he thought the roll-back would have been nearer to nine than seven given that agencies have been holding out for double digit declines in pricing. NBC Universal’s deal is likely to seal a network market that will settle into rollbacks that are in the mid-single digit range. If that scenario plays out, it will be nowhere near the ‘let’s do it all in scatter,’ catastrophe that some had predicted.
Separately, conversations are beginning in earnest elsewhere around the business in an advance of the July 4 weekend, though the real focus seems centered around broadcast. One major agency group is said to be pitching a flat to negative 2 CPM price range for the big cable players, though there’s been little movement to date, according to several cable sources.
The still unanswered question for both sell and buy side players is the precise amount of money in this year’s market. General Motors, though in bankruptcy, is still active in the upfront market, according to sellers. One cable sales executive said registered budgets were down as much as 10%. One TV executive in the midst of negotiations quipped, “Agencies are releasing first budgets, trying to create fear that the dollar volume isn’t there. They are trying to find the trigger to panic the sellers.”