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Viacom Making More Upfront Ad Agreements

Source says the programmer is seeing good demand

Viacom Media Networks appears to be making upfront ad deals while most of the other programmers remain in the talking phase with media buyers.

During Viacom’s second-quarter earnings call on April 30, CEO Philippe Dauman said the company had already booked 30% of its upfront deals.

A source familiar with the situation now says Viacom is seeing good demand and has completed more of its upfront deals. While a good chunk of Viacom’s early deals involved kids advertising at Nickelodeon, which does much of its business via multi-year deals, the source says more recent deals involve other Viacom networks, such as MTV, Comedy Central and Spike.

It was unclear what kind of price increases Viacom was getting, but media buyers said the company has a reputation of prioritizing volume over pricing.

It is unclear whether Viacom’s early progress says anything about how strong the upfront will be. The ad market has been weak for most of the past year, and Viacom’s ad revenues have been down more than most of the programmers with which it competes.

The company contends that it sees strong demand by advertisers, but that with fallen ratings its ability to sell advertising is limited.

Viacom blames some of its problems on the fact that the commercial ratings now used in most advertising transactions don’t include its young viewers who watch on digital and mobile devices.

Dauman has said the company now sells about 30% of its advertising based on non-Nielsen metrics and aims to get that up to 50% in three years.

Viacom is also working on its own metrics for ad sales and introduced Viacom Vantage last month, a data driven ad product that helps advertisers reach target consumers on a program-by-program basis.

Media buyers and rival sales executives said they were mostly still in the feeling each other out stage of the upfront and that Viacom’s activity didn’t signal a start to upfront  buying and selling in earnest.

“They did a lot of multi-year deals last year. So I don’t imagine they have a lot to write one way or another,” said one media buyer. “They aren’t moving the market I don’t think, regardless of what they do.”