The upfronts turned out surprisingly well for TV networks, but it is unlikely any programmer did better than little independent Crown Media Family Networks.
Crown, which runs the Hallmark channels, was able to pull off the tricky feat of securing above-market average gains in both price and volume, according to Ed Georger, executive VP of advertising sales and digital media.
According to Georger, Crown scored price increases on cost-per-thousand viewer (CPM) bases that were just shy of double digits. And it got a big gain in volume, with an increase in the low 20% range.
Crown benefited from ratings increases at both of its networks—Hallmark Channel, the top-rated network with women in the fourth quarter, and the up-and-coming Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. The company plans to launch a third network, Hallmark Drama, on Oct. 1.
Hallmark has three original series that are returning, which gives advertisers a level of comfort in new content but familiar programming.
The company is also cutting back on the commercial load in original broadcasts of two of those shows, Good Witch and Chesapeake Shores. “It did attract new advertisers who came in out of appreciation for a lower-commercial environment,” Georger said.
On top of that, “we brought a message to the marketplace out of the upfront event at the Rainbow Room back in March that hit on a lot of things that were important to the advertising community,” Georger said.
Those issues included the lack of trust and quality content advertisers were encountering with digital advertising.
“I think at the end of the day, a lot of those messages checked the box on what advertisers needed for the ‘17-’18 broadcast season," he said.
As the upfront unfolded Crown’s incumbent advertisers in categories such as pharmaceuticals, packaged goods and insurance were strong spenders. Those categories were also strong at other networks and in many dayparts, Georger acknowledged.
"And then we saw another group of advertisers that have not been in our wheelhouse, but certainly in this particular upfront have come to recognize the strength of our programming and our brand,” he said.
Those advertisers were in categories including automotive, quick-serve restaurants and entertainment. Advertisers in those categories were not up across the board but helped give the Hallmark networks their oversized lift.
Even with the increased upfront volume, Georger said Crown has reserved inventory for scatter, the calendar year upfront, direct response advertisers and potential make goods.
“We’re very comfortable with our sellout level,” he said.