NBCUniversal Finishes $6 Billion Upfront

Thanks to football and late night, NBC nets 5 percent CPM increases

NBCUniversal wasn't part of the flurry of upfront business that concluded two weeks ago, but the company has finally wrapped its $6 billion advertising bazaar.

"NBCUniversal has completed its upfront, securing almost $6 billion in revenue commitments—up 2 percent from last year—for its entire portfolio," said the company in a statement. "The market responded favorably to the innovative ways we are reaching and targeting our audiences."

For NBC, CPMs were up 5 percent, while volume was up 1 percent, according to a source familiar with negotiations. While those are in line with other broadcast networks this upfront, they are down from NBC's upfront last year when the network also had the Super Bowl to leverage, and landed CPM increases of 7.5 percent and volume increases of 15 percent. 

The $6 billion tally does not include next summer's Olympic Games in Rio.

While late night and Sunday Night Football were the main drivers of NBC's upfront sales, the source said the network's new shows Blindspot and Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris also attracted strong interest.

On the cable side, the source said that Bravo, E! and USA will lead the market in rate of change. 

After a sluggish start, the upfront market kicked off late last month, with the CW, CBS, Fox and Turner completing business in quick succession. But momentum had quieted again for the last two weeks as NBCU and ABC continued sales. ABC is now the only network still conducting upfront business. 

NBC also saw its digital video business grow 50 percent, "which we believe reflects the growing importance of multiplatform partnerships driven by premium video content," the network said.

This marks the third year of upfronts that Linda Yaccarino, NBCU's chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships, sold the entire company—which includes two broadcast networks, 17 cable channels and more than 50 digital properties—in one portfolio. 

Buyers also responded favorably to the ATP, the company's new audience targeting platform introduced this year, in addition to NBCU+ Powered by Comcast (which provides greater insights into viewer usage patterns) and NBCUx (which offers programmatic access to premium content combined with data-enabled targeting).

NBC, which won the last two seasons in adults 18-49, will rely heavily on Sunday Night Football (No. 1 program in adults 18-49 and total viewers) and The Voice to keep momentum going in the fall. Its new fall shows include Blindspot, launching out of The Voice in The Blacklist's old time slot, Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. spinoff Chicago Med and Heroes Reborn, its reboot of superhero series Heroes.

The company is also betting heavily on live events. In addition to Sunday Night Football and The Voice, it will air Undateable—its only returning comedy—live all season, and is airing a new live variety show, Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris as a live variety show. On Dec. 3, it continues its annual holiday tradition of airing a live musical, with The Wiz Live!

Many of NBC's heaviest hitters have been saved for midseason, including its Coach reboot (starring Craig T. Nelson), Jennifer Lopez drama Shades of Blue and comedy Hot & Bothered, starring Eva Longoria.