With much of the broadcast upfront market still unsettled—ABC and NBC are still ironing out their pricing strategies—some top-tier cable players have quietly begun piecing together deals with major agencies.
Sources on Wednesday said that Turner is halfway done with its 2013-14 upfront business, writing CPM premiums that are 7 percent to 8 percent higher than the rates it secured a year ago.
Turner enjoys the benefit of having wrapped a particularly strong season at TBS and TNT, as both networks were among the top purveyors of the adults 18-49 and 25-54 demos. TBS averaged 1.11 million adults 18-49 and 1.1 million adults 25-54, while TNT improved its standing in the dollar demos by 5 percent (921,000) and 7 percent (952,000), respectively.
Discovery Communications and Fox Cable are also on the march, having closed out as much as one-third of their respective upfront business. A+E Networks are believed to have mopped up around 40 percent of its deals, while Viacom is finally steaming into port after getting off to an early start in mid-May.
If it’s safe to say that CBS for all intents and purposes has folded its tent on the upfront bazaar, the same characterization also can be made of Fox. Both networks are believed to have completed the bulk of their deals last week and have but one major agency remaining outstanding.
CBS on average has written 8 percent pricing premiums and is expected to match the $2.65 billion in volume it booked a year ago.
Heading into this year’s sell-a-thon with 22 percent fewer GRPs to move, Fox is obviously going to be down in overall dollar volume. Last year, the network booked an estimated $2.2 billion in sales; given its average CPM lift of between 5 percent and 7 percent and an 80 percent sellout rate, Fox is likely to book around $1.8 billion in prime-time ad sales.
The CW was the first English-language broadcaster to cross the finish line, inking the last of its deals exactly one week ago. After presenting what is arguably the strongest development slate in its eight-year history, the CW booked as much as $410 million in sales.
Total broadcast volume is expected to lag last year’s $9.55 billion take, but with ABC and NBC patiently stitching together more time-intensive cross-platform deals, it’s impossible to assess where the final number will land. (Speaking Monday at the IAB’s Cross-Screen Afterfronts forum, ABC ad sales president Geri Wang expressed frustration with the “counterproductive” siloing and currency clashes that make packaging linear TV and online video inventory such a chore.)
Given that buyers are suggesting that as much as $500 million could move from broadcast to cable, network TV could be looking at a loss of around 6 percent from its year-ago take.
Should that projection hold up, cable will rake in some $10.3 billion in advance sales. Again, a lot of business remains on the table—although sales execs remain confident that the TV market should be wrapped by July 4.
At this time a year ago, the broadcasters were all but done with their upfront negotiations. NBC and Fox officially closed the network sales period on June 13, 2012.