Prediction: Broadcast TV Will Get Hosed In Upfront

Merrill Lynch analyst Jessica Reif Cohen dumped cold water on hopes for a strong “upfront” ad sales session when the talks begin next week. She thinks the overall market for prime time broadcast TV will be down anywhere from 2% ($8.79 billion) to 14% ($7.73 billion) from the $8.9 billion spent last year.

There’s been a ton of posturing from CBS (CBS), Disney (DIS) and News Corp. (NWS) about the high prices they’re getting for ads this spring in the so-called “scatter” market of remnant ads. Their conclusion is that it means the upfront — where 80% of TV ad inventory for the coming year is sold — will also be strong.

Not so, says Cohen. Ad rates may be up as much as 4% from last year, but because ratings are so low, the overall money in the market will be way down, even if demand is strong.

Who’s going to get hit hardest?

best case: $2.2 billion -3%
worst case: $1.93 billion -15%

best case: $2.35 billion -2%
worst case: $2.05 billion -15%

best case: $1.78 billion -1%
worst case: $1.57 billion -13%

best case: $1.85 billion +2%
worst case: $1.59 billion -12%

Related: Broadcast TV: Higher Rates, Fewer Dollars


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