The message from the TV networks this month: No slump here! They’re now claiming that they’ve sold $9.23 billion in “upfront” sales for the comming year, up from $9.12 billion last year. Each broadcast network is reporting that they’re getting higher rates for their ads, even as overall ratings shrink. Even the lowly CW, tapped for possible closure by the WSJ, is boasting of 6% to 8% ad rate increases.
True? Maybe. As we’ve noted before, these upfront sales numbers are unaudited bits of boasting. But for argument’s sake, let’s stipulate that they’re accurate, which would mean that big brand advertisers don’t think they have real alternatives to TV — yet.
But the networks themselves don’t think this will last for long. That’s why they’re selling increasing amounts of their inventory in advance, instead of holding back minutes that they can sell as high-priced “scatter” ads later in the year.
In the past, the networks sold 75% to 80% of their minutes in advance, and tried to sell the remainder at premiums of up to 40% later on. But now even ABC, with rock-solid franchises like “Lost” and “Dancing With The Stars,” has sold up to 84% of its inventory, up from 82% last year.
The take-the-money-now approach isn’t a bad one for the networks given the economic climate. But it’s a lot less optimistic than the sales boasts you’re hearing about this week.
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