CBS and The CW Both Wrap Their Upfront Sales With Double-Digit CPM Increases

Prime-time volume was flat at CBS and up 3-5% at its sister broadcast network

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert was a big upfront draw for CBS, while buyers were also interested in The CW's Black Lightning.
Sources: CBS, The CW

The first broadcasters are crossing the upfront finish line this year, as network siblings CBS and The CW have separately wrapped up their sales.

CBS is putting the finishing touches on its upfront negotiations, which all its big agencies complete, according to a source familiar with negotiations.

At CBS, volume in prime time was flat compared to last year, but it was up double digits in the network’s morning, daytime and late-night dayparts. The network sought prime-time CPM (cost per thousand viewers reached) increases in the high single digits and saw high single-digit to low double-digit increases in morning, daytime and late night.

The majority of CBS’ deals were transacted on the C7 metric, with multiple deals using C35, which covers ad viewing for more than a month after a program first airs.

The network’s upfront success in late night comes on the heels of  Stephen Colbert’s late-night resurgence: His Late Show with Stephen Colbert edged The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in total viewers last season, and Colbert stole the show at last month’s CBS upfront event.

Just a year earlier,  CBS spent much of the winter and spring of 2016 giving out makegoods to compensate for Colbert’s soft debut the previous fall.

“The general rule of thumb is the advertiser dollars follow the eyeballs, and he’s getting more and more eyeballs,” CBS’ president of network sales Jo Ann Ross told Adweek earlier this year.

Last year, CBS was also the first broadcast network to complete its upfront business, with a 3-5 percent volume increase and making good on CBS Corp. chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves’ preupfront vow of double-digit CPM increases.

During an earnings call in May, Moonves predicted that this year’s upfront would be “exceedingly strong,” with “high singles in CPM growth.” He added, “We expect to do very well” and “once again lead the market with strong gains.”

CBS finished last season as the most-watched network in total viewers for the ninth straight year but fell from first to third among 18- to 49-year-olds after airing the Super Bowl the previous year.

The network will have a new entertainment president, Kelly Kahl, at the helm this season. He is replacing Glenn Geller, who decided not to return to the network following a heart attack earlier this year. Gellar’s departure did not affect upfront negotiations, according to a source.

The network’s big fall hopes include Big Bang Theory spinoff Young Sheldon and a pair of action dramas: S.W.A.T., starring Criminal Minds alum Shemar Moore and Seal Team, starring David Boreanaz. CBS will debut most of its fall shows during the first full week of the 2017-18 season.

The CW also lands volume and CPM increases

Meanwhile, CBS’ corporate sibling The CW, which has its own ad sales team, has also completed its upfront sales.

The network saw volume increases between 3 and 5 percent and pushed for CPM increases in the high single digits to low double digits, according to a source familiar with negotiations.

Rob Tuck, The CW’s evp of national sales, finished his upfront sales a few days earlier than last year’s market, when he landed double-digit volume and CPM increases.

There was strong buyer interest in the network’s four freshman series: its Dynasty reboot and military drama Valor, both due this fall, as well Black Lightning (The CW’s fifth superhero series) and Life Sentence, set for midseason.

Last season’s four-show superhero crossover in late November and early December—featuring the casts of Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow—was a ratings success, and while the network is in discussions with buyers for partnerships related to this year’s crossover, those conversations are not part of the upfront buys.

The CW will premiere its entire fall slate during one week in October.

While this is the second straight year that both CBS and The CW finished their upfront sales on the same day, sources said there’s no coordination between the CBS Corp. networks when it comes to wrapping negotiations.