Analyst Projects 4% Upfront Volume Growth

Ryvicker of Wells Fargo sees CBS posting biggest gains
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After attending the network’s programming presentations last week, analyst Marci Ryvicker of Wells Fargo Securities is projecting a 4% increase in volume to about $8.77 billion in the upfront market.

While the networks are pushing for price increases in the mid-teens, Ryvicker said she expects CPMs (cost per thousand viewers) to rise by 8% on average, with the networks upping the amount of inventory they sell to 79% from 76% a year ago.

Ryvicker expects CBS to be at the top of the pack, with prices up 10% and volume up 8%. Last year, CBS held inventory out of the upfront betting that prices would be higher in scatter, which they turned out to be.

The big price increases in scatter is one reason why Ryvicker and others expect dollars to flow from the scatter market to the upfront market this year.

Ryvicker expects Fox’s volume to increase 6% with a 7% CPM increase. She sees NBC up 4% in volume with a 9% price hike and ABC pushing to get an 8% price increase but getting just 2% more volume because its ratings are down the most among the broadcasters.

The CW is expected to finish with flat volume despite a 7% price increase, according to Ryvicker.

Among Ryvicker’s other observations:

  • CBS had the strongest schedule, she says. “Granted, this is subjective but confirmed by most trade rages—followed by ABC, CW, NBC and Fox.”
  • The networks plan to add the fewest new shows since Fox hit the scene in 1985. “Only 20 this year (8 comedies, 12 dramas) vs. 21 last year (10 comedies, 11 dramas) – interesting since CBS is focusing more on comedies, and ABC is adding another comedy night,” she said.
  • CBS adding the most new shows, while CW adding the least. "This was a surprise given CBS’ dominance in overall viewership," she said.
  • On the other hand there are more new mid-season shows on the way. “While the overall number of mid-season shows hasn’t changed this year. (34 total), more are new this time (25 vs. 19 last season) – with NBC contributing the most again (12 vs. 8 last season).