With ratings down
again this primetime season, some are predicting a tough upfront market for
broadcasters, who are facing new competition from the companies that created
the NewFronts to sell digital video, as well as from cable, whose sales
surpassed broadcast in last year's upfront.
But the top sales
executives at the broadcast networks would rather look at signs that point to
an improving economy and a strengthening scatter market as harbingers of decent
this week, the broadcasters will look to put their best foot forward, beguiling
buyers with promising new shows and fresh evidence that an ad campaign without
the reach and impact broadcast uniquely provides is like a day without
Media moguls this
month have been predicting a robust upfront, led by perennially sunny CBS Corp.
president/CEO Leslie Moonves, who could not restrain himself from making his
annual forecast that America's Most Watched Network would garner double-digit
price increases in the upfront.
That sentiment was
echoed by Jo Ann Ross, president for ad sales at Moonves' broadcast network.
up here at CBS," Ross told B&C. "We are having back-to-back
breakfasts, lunches and dinners," with clients and buyers. "Everyone wants to
sit down and have a conversation."
Ross said the ad
market seems solid right now-a good sign for the upfront. "Second-quarter
scatter continues to be strong," she said. "The demand is there. Budgets are
coming in well before flight date."
Geri Wang, president
of sales and marketing at ABC, said she is optimistic because the macroeconomic
indicators are good. "The micro detail rolls up really nicely. And I like our
position," she added. "So I'm feeling very, very good about the upfront."
counterparts, Wang is encouraged by the pilots she has been screening. "The
level of quality across the board for all the scripted drama and comedy
[development] has been really strong," she said. "I'm really excited we'll be
adding to our portfolio."
Some media buyers
claim Fox ad sales president Toby Byrne is in for a rough upfront, however.
Fox's ratings are off a disappointing 20% this season, and its top show, American
Idol, has fallen from its once-dominant position back into the pack, making
a drop in upfront sales almost inevitable. But Byrne also preferred to stay
positive in talking about his inventory.
"Fox still stands
alone in terms of differentiation in several ways from our competitors," Byrne
said. "In the younger half of the 18-49 demo, the 18-34 segment, we have a
growing advantage versus our broadcast competitors. We have a social footprint
that is second to none in television. And that speaks to both the involvement
of our shows with the audience as well as how engaged our audience is in our
content. So these are things that still separate us and make Fox a unique
Byrne also points to
the scatter market for signs the upfront will be OK. "Scatter pricing is
healthy, and there is solid demand for our signature programs, including New
Girl, The Following, American Idol and our Sunday-night
lineup," he said.
Both Sides Against the Middle
This year, Linda
Yaccarino, president of sales for NBCUniversal, is in a unique spot, heading
sales for troubled NBC as well as NBC's strong roster of cable networks. For
years when she worked at Turner, Yaccarino urged advertisers to buy cable.
"What I always said,
which remains true, is that cable is a terrific complement to broadcast prime,"
Yaccarino said. "So I think it's actually a very logical progression that I
have been lucky enough to be given this opportunity here to oversee all of the
assets for NBCUniversal so we can sit here and say, Ã¢â‚¬ËœHow do we help you look at
your media plans across all our assets, broadcast, cable and digital, to meet
your needs and help you sell stuff?'"
Yaccarino is upbeat
about NBC. "We go into the upfront market with the wind at our backs and some
really good momentum from The Voice and Revolution and Chicago
Fire," she said. "And we are really excited about what we saw in the
NBCU is set up to
sell advertisers packages that reach consumers using both broadcast and cable.
"We're involved in several of those conversations already," Yaccarino said.
"The math tells us there is a shortage of [gross rating points] in the
marketplace and that there is a need to aggregate and there is a bigger need to
Much of the
pre-upfront posturing has involved measurement, particularly with the networks
talking about using Nielsen C7 ratings that count commercials viewed during
seven days of DVR playback instead of the current C3 standard, which covers
three days. ABC has reportedly been writing C7 business for a while. But now
the broadcasters seem to be downplaying the desirability of C7.
"It's not going to
be one size fits all. I think most of our business will be written on C3
[ratings], but there are probably a handful of clients, depending on what their
inclination is, [that] look at C7," CBS' Ross said.
Yaccarino said NBC
is open to having conversations about C7 with clients. But she adds, "I don't
think that that is at all a real solution to the measurement crisis that we
have on our hands." Yaccarino added that a "significant" amount of
NBCUniversal's audience is watching content on devices that currently are
"I think that's a
problem. The trend seems to indicate that viewing on those devices will
continue to grow," Yaccarino said. "I do think we have a crisis since
historically, measurement has lagged behind consumer behavior. So it has become
an acute need to drive toward total measurement. And that's where we as an
industry need to come together to push progress in this area. And I think
Comcast NBCUniversal is uniquely positioned to push that conversation forward."
Everything Counts, Whether Measured or Not
As more viewers
watch network shows online or on mobile devices including tablets and
smartphones, the broadcasters are including some of those digital impressions
in the audiences they guarantee their upfront advertisers.
Fox calls that fluidity.
"Our fluidity model is broadly accepted, providing one-stop shopping here for
wherever our content is distributed, on whatever platform," Byrne said.
Clients are looking
at TV, digital and other media to put together multiplatform campaigns, and
broadcasters want to be part of that process.
"The whole world is
cross-platform -- that's what it's about," Wang said. "We've evolved and
enhanced the offering."
The networks have
beefed up their integrated marketing staffs to create innovative offerings for
advertisers that are demanding plans including more than 30-second spots from
their media partners. "The key to innovation is not just doing more of it, it's
about doing it well. It's a win-win for the clients and us when we have enough
lead time to really understand what their brand brief is and to actually get
into the planning guts of it," said Ross. "Whether they want the integration to
start on broadcast within a show and then have arms and legs through webisodes,
on CBS.com or any of our other assets, whether it goes to
mobile, whether it crosses divisions, our team is very involved in it. I think
we have a good reputation with the bigger clients that have done that type of
thing with us."
Yaccarino said NBCU
has a creative marketing team of 50 to 60 people to "amplify across the entire
company the marketing activation of all our assets." She said it's a priority
"to deliver on the marketing piece for our customers that they have been asking
for in a bigger and better way for a while. We're finally able to deliver that
In addition to
primetime, the networks sell their other dayparts during the upfront.
ABC is upbeat about
its late night and early morning programming.
Kimmel's Time to Shine
While Jimmy Kimmel's
irreverent rants about the advertising sales process have been a fixture at
ABC's upfronts, this is the first year the network will be selling Kimmel as
its 11:35 p.m. late-night anchor.
"We think Jimmy is
on the ascendency. He is the funniest guy in show business. We couldn't be more
excited to have him be the centerpiece of our late-night strategy," said ABC's
Wang. "We definitely expect a share shift over to Jimmy based on what he has
been able to accomplish."
Late-night will also
be a big deal for NBC, where Jay Leno will be stepping down from the Tonight
Show and succeeded by Jimmy Fallon. "We're very excited about the
continuation of the strength of NBC in this daypart as the No. 1 for so many
years," Yaccarino said. NBCU's late-night dominance goes beyond NBC, she adds.
"When you look at that and you add Andy Cohen [whose show is on Bravo] and you
add Chelsea Handler [on E!] and when you look across [our] late-night daypart,
you see a lot of great opportunity from an audience perspective and from a
marketing sponsorship perspective."
ABC's Wang feels the
same way about Good Morning America. GMA has overtaken NBC's Today
as the ratings leader among breakfast news shows, and Wang anticipates a
similar shift in ad dollars in the upfront. "We're also expecting the same
thing from GMA," she said.
The nets will also
be selling sports to advertisers. "The sports marketplace is very healthy. I
think there's likely going to be volume growth," said Fox's Byrne. "Naturally,
it's always exciting when [your network has] the Super Bowl, and it being in
New York [next February] is fantastic. Also, the launching of Fox Sports 1 is
an incredibly exciting endeavor. We think there's an appetite in the
marketplace for additional players in the space."
NBC Sports will be
offering Sunday Night Football, the top-rated primetime program, and the
2014 Winter Olympics from Sochi, Russia. "We have asset after asset, league
after league, sport after sport. It's such a great portfolio to have the
opportunity to represent," Yaccarino said.
"Do the customers we
talk to who we have a lot of long-standing relationships with want to look at
NBCUniversal as a whole portfolio? The answer is, of course," Yaccarino added.
"And when it makes sense and we can meet each others' needs, the answer is, of
course we have those conversations. But it's all about delivering what the
customer needs, and that's what we're focusing on right now."