NBC broadcast has wrapped its upfront sales effort, securing $2.3 billion in ad dollars across prime time, sports and late night, said sources. It's a slight gain over the $2.25 billion the network logged last year for the same dayparts and due in large part to high commitments keyed to the Super Bowl, as well as a strong prime-time slate.
NBCU sells its properties as a portfolio, including cable and broadcast in the same package, so the final tally is in for the cable networks as well—just shy of $6 billion for all the properties, including roughly 75 percent of the digital inventory it's planning to sell in the upfront. Last year, the tally for the whole package was $5.4 billion.
It's no surprise that the company is reporting an uptick in sales. The whole-portfolio strategy gives NBCU plenty of sway over buyers and clients who all need time on something (likely more than one something) in its huge library of platforms. Moreover, ad sales head Linda Yaccarino has the Super Bowl to leverage this year, and the company is said to be asking $4.5 million a spot after an additional commitment of another $4.5 million elsewhere in the group.
For broadcast prime alone, sources said pricing is up between 7.5 percentr and 8 percent—not far off from last year's gains over 2011-12, with a volume increase of 15 percent in the bargain (a bold move that could come back to hurt the company if ratings decline this fall). The latter is something neither ABC nor CBS has boasted over the course of upfront negotiations, though sources at competing networks are quick to point out that this is a corrective year for NBC—the net was down a few years ago, and now it's climbing back up.
Steve Burke, CEO of the company, said as much in a statement. "We are very pleased to have led the market in both rate of change and volume growth this upfront," he said. "We also have made tremendous progress in correcting our historic monetization gaps. Through significant investments in our programming, the turnaround at NBC and our strategy to approach the market as one portfolio, we are confident that we are well positioned as leaders moving forward."
NBC sold some 80 percent of available inventory for the network, about the same as last season. New shows include actress-driven comedies Bad Judge and The Mysteries of Laura, as well as Marry Me and A to Z. The network is also trying out the comics-to-TV trend with DC Comics show Constantine on Friday evenings.
It's the second year running NBCU has tried selling the whole company as a unit. That leaves only Fox left to wrap its broadcast upfront negotiations, then the remaining cable outfits. The market may well be finished by July 4 for the first time in a few years.