Two weeks before the broadcasters reveal their 2011-12 schedules, there have been reports that commercial time for next season is already being bought and sold.
During CBS’ first-quarter earnings call with analysts on Tuesday, CEO Les Moonves was asked if there had been any early upfront deals. “There have been a couple, which my head of sales told me that I can’t talk about. So I won’t,” Moonves said. “But needless to say, any deal that we would have taken in April would be at a very, very good number, which gives me great confidence heading into the upfront.”
An ESPN spokesperson said that the network was already selling inventory in its football coverage. Football sales often begin before primetime sales, and this year’s sports calendar apparently hasn’t been altered by the NFL lockout. “Business as usual from our perspective,” the spokesperson said. “Can’t control what is going to happen, our hope is that it is resolved.”
ESPN’s comments followed a report in Advertising Agethat some advertisers. particularly auto manufacturers, have begun to reserve ad time in big-ticket sports broadcasts. NBC, which broadcasts Sunday Night Football, has in the past established multi-year pacts with certain auto advertisers, meaning it would not necessarily be in negotiations with car makers for current football inventory, Ad Age said.
And last week, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said that the kids upfront was underway.
These signs point to an upfront that might not only be big, but fast.