Fox Begins Writing Upfront Ad Business

Updated: Market moving after quiet start

Fox has begun writing upfront business, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Because it only programs two hours a night in primetime, leaving it with less inventory than its competitors, and because its younger-skewing audience is attractive to movie studios, Fox is often the first network to move in the upfront.

Fox’s ratings have been down for the last few year, and its ad revenues have followed. It has a big hit show in Empire, but in a slow market, it was unclear how much of a price increase the network can manage on a cost-per-thousand (CPM) basis.

When American Idol was a dominant show pushing Fox to No. 1 in the ratings, Fox’s CPM climbed to the highest in the business. To get volume now from buyer, sources say Fox is will to accept deals with no price increase at all, and perhaps in some cases decreases.

Last year, Fox restructured its ad sales organization, consolidating broadcast and cable under president Toby Byrne. Fox was planning to sell broadcast and cable inventory together, as NBCUniversal has been doing for several years. Sources say some of Fox’s upfront sales have been portfolio deals.

The Fox upfront sales were first reported by Variety.

Viacom has also been writing upfront business. In April CEO Philippe Dauman said the company had completed 30% of its upfront business. Since then sources said it had added on more sales.

Sources say the market is moving slowly for several reasons. With the market lukewarm at best, media agencies are in no hurry. In fact, most agencies are preoccupied with an unprecedented number of accounts in review, with total billings at stake of nearly $30 billion.

In this year’s upfront, data has become an issue. Clients are looking to target their TV advertising more precisely using a range of information to figure out which shows reach their customers. For some, that’s new, and it takes more time to work out deals.

In last year’s upfront, volume was down. The market weakness was a particularly surprising on the cable side. Analysts and some media buyers have been predicting a lower upfront in this year as well.