Despite Empire, Fox Finishes Upfront Sales With CPM Declines

Volume was flat for the restructured Fox Networks Group

Even having the biggest new hit in decades—all hail, Empire!—couldn't keep Fox from taking a hit as it closed this year's upfront sales. 

Fox's CPMs were flat to as much as 2 percent below last year, according to a source familiar with the negotiations, though CPMs were up slightly for its entire Fox Networks Group portfolio. 

The company restructured its ad sales organization last October to create the Fox Networks Group, which includes Fox, Fox Sports, FX, FXX, National Geographic Chanel, Nat Geo Wild and Nat Geo Mundo. This was its first upfront selling across the entire portfolio. 

The network sold 75 percent to 80 percent of its projected inventory, similar to last year's upfront (which concluded at a time when there was no one at the helm of the network: Kevin Reilly had left in late May; Dana Walden and Gary Newman hadn't yet been brought on to replace him). While volume was flat across the portfolio, the company made strides with C7, which accounted for more than half of this year's deals. 

Empire and NFL playoffs were among the programming most in demand among buyers, with MLB playoffs, World Series, American Horror Story, The Americans and two new series—the drama Scream Queens and comedy Grandfathered—also attracting heavy interest.

Fox tumbled to fourth place among adults ages 18 to 49 last season, despite the midseason emergence of Empire as the biggest new hit in decades. Empire, which boasted ratings increases every single week, will return Sept. 23 to anchor the fall lineup.

Next season will also see the end of American Idol, which will go off the air after its 15th and final season, as well as the return of The X-Files, which is back as a six-episode limited series beginning on Jan. 24.

With The CW wrapping its sales late last week and CBS finishing up Monday, that leaves ABC and NBCUniversal as the last broadcasters standing in this year's upfronts.