Scatter Stays Soft

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As the dust settles on this year's upfront, scatter buying for the broadcast networks remains relatively soft for the third quarter. According to several buyers, there's plenty left to buy. Price increases over upfront prices are said to range from flat to 10%, an indication that demand is down from 2003, when scatter prices increased a healthy 25%-30%.

"Surprisingly, third-quarter scatter has available inventory in prime time, daytime, and late night," says Ray Dundas, senior vice president, group director of national broadcast, Initiative. "There's a plentiful supply on all six networks."

Adds another buyer, "There's a good amount of scatter left, over $200 million, especially among younger, targeted networks, like Fox, WB, UPN," at prices equal to upfront rates.

Typically, ads bought in scatter command a 10%-15% premium over the upfront market. Anything less usually signals lagging demand and a soft market. Scatter has been sluggish; many advertisers spent more money than usual in the 2003 upfront market, leaving less for scatter.

But other buyers say the range of price increases falls anywhere from flat to low double digits. "I'm seeing flat to 10% increases," notes Aaron Cohen, EVP/director of broadcast, Horizon Media, "depending on the daypart."

According to Dundas, buyers need to be flexible to secure lower-priced deals. "If you want original programming," he says, "it's going to be more expensive."

Cellphone/wireless advertisers and entertainment/movies are especially strong categories.

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