Scatter Market Faces Challenges

Jun 24, 2007  •  Post A Comment

If you think parsing an upfront ad sales market using a new set of ratings as a currency was tricky, try figuring out what next season’s scatter market will look like.
“I would say it’s harder to predict scatter this coming year than any other year in my 20 years, because the ratings are a wild card,” said Tim Spengler, chief activation officer at Initiative.
Mr. Spengler said some buyers were unsure how commercial ratings would play out, especially if DVR penetration grows faster than expected. That uncertainty was a factor in some marketers deciding to put money into the upfront this year.
In the past few years, some advertisers have decided to put less money in the upfront in order to stay flexible and to wait for specific creative advertising ideas, such as integrations and multiplatform opportunities. This year that seemed to change, accounting for some of the extra money in the market.
“I think people are so unsure of the ratings that it’s hard to really hold a big part of your money, particularly second and third quarter, out for scatter if you know you have the money,” Mr. Spengler said.
The networks expect that with DVR playback added in, next season’s ratings will be about the same as this year’s live program ratings, which is what ad sales were based on this season.
“If the ratings are flat, I think scatter is going to be flat. If the ratings muck it up again, then I think everyone’s going to be glad they were in the upfront,” Mr. Spengler said.
Most of the broadcast networks said they weren’t setting aside extra spots as make-goods if the new ratings show sharp drops in viewers.
“We’ve been looking at the data for a long time now,” said Mike Shaw, president of ad sales and marketing at ABC. “We feel it’s predictive, it’s consistent, and we’re very comfortable with our audience estimates.”
Mr. Shaw expects scatter to be “excellent” for the networks.
“It was a strong upfront and it’s going to be a strong scatter,” agreed a cable ad sales executive. “We’ve already established demand in the market and supply is going to be down. It is going to be a strong market all year.”

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