Home Free: The CW Wraps $420 Million Upfront

ABC, NBC, Fox should close out deals by week’s end

The CW has crossed the finish line in the 2011-12 upfront sprint, taking in between $400 million and $420 million in sponsor commitment for the upcoming TV season.

A joint venture between CBS Corp. and Warner Bros. Entertainment, the network moved between 75 percent and 80 percent of its available ad inventory, as clients targeting the young female demo jumped to secure time on established shows like Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries, as well as their respective new lead-outs (Hart of Dixie, The Secret Circle).

The CW boosted its dollar approximately 10 percent from a year ago, while pricing improved an average 11 percent versus the 2010-11 bazaar.

A year after pitching media buyers on investing in convergence packages (i.e., deals that married linear TV units with spots in online streaming shows), the CW saw a significant uptick in interest for its twinned media offerings.

In order to accommodate the increased interest in online video inventory, the CW has added avails to its streaming series. And while one might think that more ads would be met with resistance, given the CW’s target demo (women 18-34) the network’s research arm found that 94 percent of all ads served up in full-episode streams are viewed to completion.

Nor did the additional ads have a chilling effect on the CW’s online deliveries. Last season, the number of unique visitors who watched full episodes online soared 55 percent versus the previous year.

As was the case a year ago, the CW is the second broadcaster to close out its upfront negotiations. Fox last week wrapped its portion of the spring bazaar with commitments adding up to $2.2 billion.

Close to the finish are ABC, which is landing 10 percent CPM increases, and NBC. After getting the ball rolling on Monday, the Peacock has closed out around 65 percent of its deals. Buyers say NBC is writing 9 percent CPM hikes.

After commanding the steepest rate increases (14 percent), CBS is also seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Barring any unforeseen delays, the entire broadcast marketplace should be wrapped by the end of this week.

While the networks with the fewest prime time avails (Fox and the CW) are believed to have secured 10 percent volume increases, buyers suggest that inflated pricing will prevent the legacy broadcasters from growing their overall take by any more than 5 percent.

Top-tier cable networks, on the other hand, are expected to make a killing. High network pricing will increasingly push clients to cable, where the average prime time CPM is still about one-third that of broadcast. Discovery Communications, Viacom’s MTV Networks, and ESPN are said to have moved a significant amount of upfront inventory; the cable nets should begin to move in earnest by the end of this week.