Cable Networks Turn Up Volume on Original Content at Upfronts

Mar 9, 2008  •  Post A Comment

As the broadcast networks try to recover from the Writers Guild of America strike, cable networks plan to be more aggressive during the upfront, selling more original content.
Last week, Turner Entertainment Networks announced plans to make its upfront pitch in the middle of the week when broadcasters traditionally put on their big presentations to ad buyers and their clients from all over the country.
Turner said it is stepping up original programming on TNT, TBS and truTV, and served notice that it was taking on the broadcast networks head on.
“Everyone in the industry realizes the broadcast business has been on a steep decline for years— this year in particular,” said Steve Koonin, president of Turner Entertainment Networks.
“For advertisers, our networks provide an alternative that is getting better and better.”
Turner is hardly alone among cable networks eyeing the upfront. After ringing up big price increases in the scatter market, other cable networks say they expect this year’s upfront to be strong.
Last year, the broadcasters drew more than $9 billion in upfront commitments, up 5% from 2006. Most big cable network groups reported double-digit increases in upfront commitments and larger price increases than broadcast. According to the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau, cable networks took in about $7 billion in the upfront, up 6.5% to 7.5% from the prior year.
The broadcasters still enjoy a sizable lead in ad rates on a cost-per-thousand basis, but cable executives plan to be aggressive in pricing to try to close that gap.
“There’s more original programming on cable than ever,” said Jeff Lucas, executive VP for advertising at MTV Networks. “We’re bringing more value to the table.”
Mr. Lucas notes that cable programming also seems to extend well to the Internet, where there are extra opportunities to earn revenue. More advertisers are looking for multiplatform marketing programs, and cable networks have been doing that longer and with more enthusiasm than their broadcast counterparts.
Rich Goldfarb, senior VP of ad sales at National Geographic Channel, noted there are ongoing concerns about the business climate, but that ad spending cuts tend to lag changes in the overall economy.
The ad market itself has taken on a new dynamic, Mr. Goldfarb said. With broadcast networks’ ratings down even before the strike, there are fewer gross ratings points available for advertisers to buy, which tends to create a seller’s market.
“Supply and demand metrics have been clearly on the side of the vendors, and all reports and accounts are that that’s going to continue,” Mr. Goldfarb said.
But one cable ad sales exec warned that after seeing prices in the short-term scatter market spike by 30%, advertisers might make bigger-than-needed commitments in the long-term upfront market. That’s safe because they know they have an option not to buy as much as 50% of what they reserve at what should be favorable prices.
National Geographic Channel last week began making the rounds of ad buyers with its upfront presentation, which included new opportunities for sponsors to tie themselves to programming beyond TV, with broadband, on-demand, mobile, print and live-event elements.
Gospel Music Channel, which put on an upfront presentation at the House of Blues in Chicago last week, also stressed on-the-ground marketing opportunities to reach the legions of gospel music fans.
The network has upcoming events with Essence magazine and a big family-friendly tent at NASCAR events. It will have a presence at the giant Fourth of July Celebrate Freedom concert event in Dallas, as well as a new Labor Day event in Atlanta and an NFL-sanctioned Super Bowl Sunday special.
Elements of all of these events are available for sponsorship, said Brad Siegel, vice chairman of the Gospel Music Channel. During the last upfront, Mr. Siegel said, the network had barely 10 million subscribers. It expects to have 40 million by this year’s upfront. The added distribution has contributed to a four-fold increase in ad revenue, he said.
Major sponsors also have been attaching themselves to the Gospel Music Channel’s key programming. For example, Lincoln Mercury is sponsoring the third season of music competition show “Gospel Dreams.”
One new show being presented to advertisers is “Summer Road Tour,” in which a group of students are put on a bus that’s following the tour of a gospel music artist. The network expects the tour will produce 10 one-hour episodes in the fourth quarter. The series will have online extensions, including blogs from the tour bus. Another new program is “Gospel Playhouse,” a series of half-hour musical comedies, starting in 2009.
Gospel Music Channel also plans to launch prime-time show “Bobby Jones Next Generation” in May. Mr. Jones has a popular, long-running gospel show on BET.


  1. Wow, amazing blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy.

  2. Great wordpress blog here.. It’s hard to find quality writing like yours these days. I really appreciate people like you! take care and see you soon

  3. Nice!! Great Ifo. Great People. Great Blog. Thank you for all the great sharing that is being done here.

  4. I would like to start my own blog one day. This was a really nice blog that you made here. Keep up the success 😛

  5. I am extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it’s rare to see a nice blog like this one these days.. 🙂

  6. Between me and my husband we’ve owned more MP3 players over the years than I can count, including Sansas, iRivers, iPods (classic & touch), the Ibiza Rhapsody, etc. But, the last few years I’ve settled down to one line of players. Why? Because I was happy to discover how well-designed and fun to use the underappreciated (and widely mocked) Zunes are.

  7. Keep focusing on your blog. I love how we can all express our feelings. This is an extremely nice blog here 🙂

  8. Dreamin. I love blogging. You all express your feelings the right way, because they are your feeling, focus on your blog it is great.

  9. Wow, amazing blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy.

  10. Nice blog here! Also your website loads up fast! What host are you using? I wish my website loaded up as fast as yours lol

  11. Kudos to you! This is a really good blog here and I love your style of writing. How did you get so good at blogging?

  12. I love the way you write and also the theme on your blog. Did you code this yourself or was it done by a professional? I’m very very impressed.

  13. Love all the opinions expressed here! How is everyone? Love how everyone expresses whatr they feel 🙂

  14. Love all the opinions expressed here! How is everyone? Love how everyone expresses whatr they feel 🙂

  15. You make blogging look like a walk in the park! I’ve been trying to blog daily but I just cant find writing material.. you’re an inspiration to me and i’m sure many others!

Leave a Reply to Backlinks Cancel Reply

Email (will not be published)