Weak TV Ad Market Fuels Buyer Uncertainty as Upfront Negotiations Loom

With spending down, buyers push for greater flexibility in this year's talks

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The consensus among publishers and buyers is that the TV ad market has seen better days. However, no one would’ve guessed that those better days were during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

“This is weaker than it was during Covid,” Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said at an RBC conference last November, adding that “things got a lot worse” in 2022’s final months.

NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell didn’t have a much cheerier outlook while speaking at a UBS conference a month later, speculating on the reasons behind the soft market: “It’s hard to figure out whether that’s because of macro-conditions—whether people’s businesses are worsening—or rather because people are just uncertain.”

According to media buyers, the answer is both, leading clients to take a wait-and-see approach in the early months of 2023.



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