What if they gave an upfront an nobody came?

A curious development of the upfront TV advertising market: Lotsa big check writing advertisers – like Johnson & Johnson and maybe Coke, too, – aren’t even showing up this year.

Per the Wall Street Journal,

“Even before J&J’s move was known, the broadcast upfront market was expected to be weak. Not only are marketers spending more on alternative venues, some are expected to hold back money for newer, digital options. Last year, the broadcast networks’ primetime upfront sales fell about 3.2% to $9.1 billion.”

If that’s irreversible, that’s a wake-up call to the TV networks, which may never see this money return. True, there’s always the latter-in-the-season “scatter” market, when networks get to turn the tables on Madison Avenue and charge far higher prices for TV time. But a fundamental shift might be coming to the business of advertising, such that the web offers companies far greater bang for their buck.

Sure enough, the Journal also offers a separate look at how NBC Universal is preparing for that very eventuality.

Viz,

NBC Universal, in an aggressive bid for the growing share of advertising dollars flowing to the Internet, unveiled a range of digital initiatives built around its television properties, including the creation of two broadband “TV channels.”…it also will launch a new video player on all of the company’s Web properties, including the sites of its local stations, Bravo, Sci-Fi and USA networks and the female-oriented online venture iVillage Inc.”

If there’s any good news in all this for television, its this: At least they know where there viewers have gone. With radio, not only do they not know where 8 million Howard Stern listeners went, they also are in denial about the need to look online for new acts.

Yeah, “broadcast yourself” indeed.