Let Me Be Upfront with You

By Matt White, Senior Media Buyer/Planner

This year’s crop of TV Upfronts followed patterns of recent years with demands for higher pricing, aggregation of the available media opportunities, and an increased emphasis on inclusivity. With what may seem like more for the same, for savvy marketers, there are certainly things to take away from the presentations.

This year’s crop of TV Upfronts followed patterns of recent years with demands for higher pricing, aggregation of the available media opportunities, and an increased emphasis on inclusivity. With what may seem like more for the same, for savvy marketers, there are certainly things to take away from the presentations.

LESS IS MORE?

Linear TV ratings are down, but you wouldn’t know it coming out of this year’s TV upfronts. With reports showing 30-40% declines against the last five years, one would expect to see a commensurate drop in ad pricing…this is not the case. 2018-19 Pricing is projected to increase 9-10% leaving some at a loss for an explanation. Networks like ABC and NBC have set lofty goals, looking to increase CPM pricing 10-13% while reducing inventory in key places at the same time. This all comes in a new era when viewers have more options than ever, and the emergence of digital video has given new avenues to reach intended audiences. With that being said, the inventory is only worth what advertisers are willing to pay for it, and the significant growth in the ad world is coming from Facebook and Google, not television. The future of linear is intertwined with the digital space and dependent on the ability to monetize OTT and addressable ads in the age of “Big Data”. There are numerous factors that could dampen the growth the networks would like to see as advertisers continue to turn to rival forms of media. The increasing prices in the traditional world, do however, speak to the true power of TV and value of its current reach.

AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!

“Let’s circle back” and “touch base” so we can “take this offline” in our effort to “think outside the box” and “synergize…” you can imagine these types of Tony Stark-ish corporate buzzwords being thrown around as this season’s crop of upfronts were taking shape. This time of year shines a light as bright as the Bat-Signal on just how much is at stake for these conglomerates as they battle for their slice of Captain America’s proverbial apple pie. As movie franchises continue to aggregate their superheroes in films, media companies have likewise continued the trend of merging their upfront events for maximum effect. This year’s ABC and Freeform event combining the two properties followed the recent pattern seen from companies like NBCUniversal, Turner, FOX, and ESPN, who have all turned their individual network upfronts into joint events with their corporate siblings; all with an increased focus on cable and digital. The supervillain in this scenario is no longer the rival networks, but rather the digital giants (Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc.) who essentially have all the infinity stones needed to complete the gauntlet. The upfronts can only act as an opening salvo against the true media war which will be waged in the years to come.

A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

In an increasingly polarized world, the upfronts allowed networks a platform to tout their diversity both on camera and off. Presentations across networks included statistics around inclusivity with women and people of color in movies that would not have been seen in the past. Regardless of the motives, efforts like this help to increase opportunities for those working in the industry and gives audiences what they have been wanting to see for some time. With diversity driving certain programming decisions, networks are trying to be relevant to a bigger portion of the viewing audience, not just the typical demos that have been overrepresented in mainstream programming in the past. Advertising dollars are at stake and the networks are looking to show brands that all audiences are represented and can be reached. The financial motive is clear, but it doesn’t diminish the effort being made to make equality the norm.

The sheer amount of information coming from the upfronts can be as hard to comprehend as the ending of Avengers: Infinity War. With networks spraying to all fields with their individual offerings, the big takeaways are clear and shrewd brands and agencies are paying attention.

SOURCES:
US Ad Spending To Grow 6 Percent In 2018, Driven Mostly By Facebook And Google
http://www.alistdaily.com/entertainment/morgan-stanley-report-us-ad-spending-to-grow-6-percent-in-2018/

NBC, ABC, Fox Start to Sell as TV’s Upfront Market Heats Up (EXCLUSIVE)
https://variety.com/2018/tv/news/2018-tv-upfront-advertising-nbc-abc-fox-sales-1202834578/

National TV cable networks upfront advertising cost-per-mille (CPM) in the United States from 2008/09 to 2017/18 season (in U.S. dollars)
https://www.statista.com/statistics/826039/cable-tv-cpm/

TV Upfronts 2018 Presentation & Party Schedule: More Corporate Consolidation, Fewer Agency Bashes, Kimmel Returns
https://deadline.com/2018/05/tv-upfronts-2018-schedule-presentation-parties-jimmy-kimmel-1202379732/

2018 TV Advertising Upfronts Are History, But Existential Questions Will Linger
https://www.forbes.com/sites/howardhomonoff/2018/05/22/2018-tv-advertising-upfronts-are-history-but-existential-questions-will-linger/#539d5f366e21

What We Learned From the 2018 Upfronts
https://variety.com/2018/biz/news/2018-tv-upfronts-advertising-takeaways-1202814221/

TV Upfronts 2018: The best and worst of broadcast’s big week
http://adage.com/article/special-report-tv-upfront/tv-upfronts-2018-worst-broadcasts-big-week/313576/

2018-09-13T00:12:01+00:00