Ad Revenue Nightmare

By Erik Sorenson 

Not since 2001 has the network television upfront remained frozen this late in the season. And that was during a much “better” economy! Here it is, July 21, and no deal of significance has been made. As always, rumors abound on Madison Avenue and in the hallways of media congloms in Midtown Manhattan. One rumor suggested that NBC broadcast would take inventory off the market and save it, intentionally, for the scatter market later this year (this rumor emerged the same week GE announced a second quarter drop of $100 million for NBC’s broadcast division.) Another piece of gossip making rounds suggested that ABC, CBS and Fox were willing to lower CPM’s by one or two percentage points. But still, no firm deal commitments have been announced.

It’s a $9 billion game of chicken. And the stakes are higher than usual because what happens in 2009 will undoubtedly affect 2010 and beyond. And many of the key players are swimming in unprecedented waters (take automobile advertising, as one dramatic example.) On the sell-side of the table, network execs are dealing with a broken model but they haven’t invented a realistic alternative so they keep dancing as fast as they can.

I’m guessing that all this will slide downhill eventually, affecting local stations in a less than positive fashion. If nothing else, one sage veteran suggested to me recently, the uncertainty generates enormous distraction and angst at the local level since those decisions inevitably wait until the national dollars are allocated. Let’s kick around some perspectives. How is this historically late upfront affecting you? Predictions anyone?


Erik Sorenson is chief executive officer of, Inc. He oversees the strategic direction of the global, New York-based media company, including ShopTalk & TVSPY. If you would like to comment on Remote Control, or want to reach Erik, email remotecontrol@tvspy.