Closing Time: ABC Nails Down the Last of Its Upfront Deals

Broadcast market now certain to be flat versus a year ago

The last of the upfront deals were being sewn up late tonight, as ABC joined CBS on the far side of the finish line. 

According to media buyers, ABC was able to command an average CPM increase of 7 percent. In accordance with what appears to be a market-defining trend, ABC’s dollar volume was flat versus a year ago, when it racked up some $2.5 billion in advance sponsor commitments.

If enthusiasm about this year’s marketplace may be tempered somewhat—before any budgets were registered, analysts in April predicted that a strong auto market would drive upfront volume up by as much as 5 percent—it’s worth noting that the 2011-12 upfront was an outlier. When cable, Spanish-language media and an estimated $2.4 billion in syndication dollars were added to the $9.25 billion broadcast kitty, last year’s total upfront take added up to a record $23.2 billion.

Sources said ABC held on to a little more inventory than it did a year ago, when it moved approximately 76 percent of its available prime-time units. The CW and CBS also held back a portion of their respective avails.

CBS finished the last of its upfront deal making late Tuesday afternoon. Fox and NBC remain active.

The first to explode off the blocks, Fox was expected to finish by Monday. One source intimated that Fox is getting close to wrapping its remaining bit of business. It is said to be writing CPMs at premiums of 8 percent to 9 percent.

NBC also continues to negotiate.

While ABC endured a challenging year, lagging behind NBC by a tenth of a ratings point in the 18-49 demo—2.4 to 2.5, per live-plus-same-day data; the nets tied at 2.5 when all current L7 figures are factored in—things may be looking up at the Alphabet Net. The comedy Modern Family ended the season as the highest-rated scripted show in the demo (7.4, per Nielsen live-plus-seven-day data) and Once Upon a Time was the top new drama of 2011-12 (4.4). 

Other modest new hits include Revenge and Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23.

Among the freshman series set to bow in the fall are the supernatural soap 666 Park Avenue; the musical drama Nashville; and The Last Resort, a thriller about a rogue nuclear submarine.

Recommended articles