How High Is Up In This Year's Upfront?

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There’s little argument among media buyers and advertising sales executives that this year’s TV upfront market will be a strong one. The only question appears to be how strong.

Last year, there appeared to be a gentlemen’s agreement that kept price increases on a cost-per-thousand viewer basis below double digits. Now, the gloves appear to be off.

CBS’s always aggressive boss Les Moonves kicked off the public negotiations by declaring that the top-rated broadcast network would be looking for double digit increases in ad prices this year.

Now, pundit Jack Myers, who a month ago opined that CPMs would mostly rise 3% to 5% for broadcasters and 5% to 8% for cable networks, is now saying there’s a chance primetime broadcast network CPMs could increase 12% to 13.5%.

Myers points to a bit of history–during the 2003-2004 upfront a fairly strong upfront was followed by a very strong one-to validate the idea that could happen again now.

Meanwhile, buyers are planning based on price increases of 6% to 8%. In order to get the ratings points their clients need, that probably means a lot of money will flow to lower priced options: smaller cable networks and maybe syndication.

All of which goes to show that right now, many of the best jobs in media are selling television time because clients are pretty convinced there are few other ways to give their own revenues a meaningful boost.