Upfront Navigator: It’s a Whole New Game

May 15, 2006  •  Post A Comment

New television networks. New competition in the ratings game. New ways of watching shows.

The television industry is dealing with some of the biggest changes to come along in decades as it gathers this week in New York for the broadcast networks’ upfront presentations to advertisers.

Two new networks-The CW and MyNetworkTV-are introducing fall schedules, the first newcomers on the broadcast scene in more than 10 years.

Another change for fall 2006 is the introduction of Spanish-language broadcasters into the Nielsen Media Research National Television Index, meaning an apples-to-apples comparison can be made between Univision and Telemundo and the general market.

The exponential growth in digital platform deals is having an even bigger impact on all the networks. Since The Walt Disney Co. and Apple Computer’s iTunes programming pact last October, seemingly every week some TV entity strikes an agreement with a new technology company to offer television content on cellphones, iPods or the Web.

Expect this week’s upfront presentations to address digital platforms, even if networks are still wondering how they will profit from them, said Brad Adgate, senior VP of research for Horizon Media.

“They are just finding out what the possibilities are,” he said.

The broadcasters are also adapting to a changing world. As of late last week ABC, NBC and Fox had made several new series pickups for the 2006-07 season-programming details that ordinarily would be kept very quiet until upfront week.

“The cycle of the TV season is becoming more fluid,” said Carolyn Finger, VP of media research firm TVTracker.com, adding that change among broadcasters is a necessity.