ABC Finishes Upfront Negotiations With High Single-Digit CPM Hikes

Company sold inventory across its entire portfolio

This was the final upfront in which ABC buyers will be able to purchase time for Scandal, which will conclude next spring.
ABC

It’s a wrap on Rita Ferro’s first upfront as president of ad sales for Disney-ABC—and the company’s first upfront in which it sold inventory across its entire portfolio.

Ferro and her team concluded their negotiations Thursday, ahead of the long July 4 holiday weekend, securing CPM (cost per thousand viewers reached) increases in the high single digits across all dayparts and the company’s cable portfolio. Late night and kids saw low double-digit pricing increases. Overall revenue is expected to grow in the high single digits across broadcast, cable and kids with a 20 percent increase in digital sales.

This was the first upfront for Ferro, who was named president of ad sales for Disney-ABC in February. This year, the company was selling its inventory across its entire portfolio: ABC’s entertainment, news and kids businesses in linear, digital and radio, including ABC Entertainment, ABC Daytime, ABC News, Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney Junior and Freeform.

Last year, ABC finished its upfront sales in early July—a full month earlier than in 2015—with CPM increases in the 9 percent and 10 percent range, and strong volume gains.

At ABC, buyers were most interested in returning comedies, realities and the TGIT programming block. New shows The Good Doctor, The Mayor and the Gospel of Kevin saw interest, as did the return of American Idol.

ABC’s upfront last month was nostalgia-themed, with revivals of Roseanne and American Idol on tap for midseason, as well as the final season of Scandal, which means the last year for ABC’s original iteration of Shonda Rhimes’ TGIT lineup of dramas. The prolific producer is readying a Grey’s Anatomy spinoff coming in midseason, focusing on Seattle firefighters.

The network hopes that Idol, Roseanne and the Grey’s spinoff while prevent it from finishing fourth in the 18-49 demo for the third consecutive year.

The controversial Idol revival, coming less than two years after the show’s “final” season on Fox, has lined up Katy Perry as a judge (the announcement was made at last month’s upfront), but the other judge slots remain vacant, and Ryan Seacrest still hasn’t finalized a deal to return as the show’s host.

During broadcast upfront week, rivals Fox, NBC and CBS, all of which spoke with producers FremantleMedia North America and 19 Entertainment about reviving the show, questioned the economics and viewer interest in the show’s return, while ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey retorted, “From where we sit, we feel like it’s the perfect time to bring the series back. … What I love about it, personally, is that I feel like it’s about heartfelt, uplifting stories of people who make their dreams come true, and honestly, that’s our sweet spot at ABC.”

ABC crossed the upfront finish one week after broadcast competitors CBS and sister network The CW both wrapped their upfront sales with high-single to double-digit CPM increases.