Agency buyers are reporting a relatively soft second-quarter market for broadcast scatter. But weakness in prime time appears to be tempered by strength in other dayparts, such as daytime and news.
Overall, "I see the second quarter 85% sold," notes one buyer. "But it's still sluggish, with flat to +5% increases."
According to Annette Cerbone, senior VP/director of national broadcast, Universal McCann, "Last year's scatter market was very highly inflated, and it created a record-high upfront. This year, scatter is relatively flat."
According to another buyer, "NBC has the most inventory left to go. CBS, ABC, and Fox all have similar amounts to sell, but what they have is half of what NBC has available."
TargetCast TCM Director of Broadcast Services Gary Carr adds, "The prime time marketplace hasn't been strong all year. ABC has the least available inventory" because they have a huge make-good bill. "They owe the world."
Some dayparts are faring better than prime time. Daytime is said to be strong, and according to Carr, "news is very, very strong because of all the pharmaceutical spending. NBC's Today
show is also very strong."
ZenithOptimedia Group sees the U.S. ad market growing 4.4% in "real terms" in 2004, after shrinking 0.3% in 2003. While network TV spending was down slightly in early 2004, Zenith expects Olympic coverage to push full-year increases to 5%. Recovering categories include automotive, restaurants, and retail.
Recently, the six broadcast networks funded print ads to promote their cause. The goal is to keep upfront dollars away from cable.