The Upfront Will Be Down More Than 6%

Report says dollar volume will drop to $18.1 billion

No, all that money that didn't go to broadcast networks is not showing up on cable.

New Jersey-based agency MDI says the upfront will be down 6.1 percent this year to $18.1 billion—the first time the market will have dipped since '09-10 when the TV industry pulled back sharply on ad spending, in part due to the longer-term effects of the 2008 financial crisis. 

With budgets down across the board, it's hard to know what the endgame for the year's advertising revenue will look like. Upfront commitments, after all, are changeable up to a certain point, and it's not clear whether budgets are indeed down across the board or a difficult year for TV ratings has meant that advertisers are now willing to spend more in scatter.

What is clear is that broadcast is likely to be down about 10 percent and cable is down about 2 percent, according to sources familiar with the upfront market, and that several major players—not least of them Fox, which lost its primary executive Kevin Reilly practically as the lights came up after its programming presentation—are taking less for their wares than they have in years past, whether it's in CPM decreases (as with Fox) or in volume drops.

We wrote last month that scatter was probably where networks are going to make their stand. Nobody's going to be giving away inventory on their high-end shows once the hits are established, but there are plenty of interesting options out there for video advertisers at the moment.

Clients may not flock en masse to digital video this year, but new metrics for TV effectiveness are cropping up every day, and one thing those metrics aren't great at predicting yet is whether or not new shows are going to hit. They're good at established TV and time slot predictions, but if a show hasn't aired yet and it's terrible, all the data in the world isn't going to help. Faced with viewership declines on the most effective (and measurable) medium available, advertisers may be looking for more reliability as the content market diversifies rapidly.