ABC Finishes Upfront Sales, Volume Drops Slightly — Why Flat Is ‘Success’ in the Annual Upfront Haggle

Jun 13, 2012  •  Post A Comment

By Brian Steinberg
Advertising Age

ABC has completed its upfront sales, notching commitments from advertisers that total a little less than the $2.3 billion to $2.4 billion that the Walt Disney network secured in last year’s bargaining session, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The figures further illustrate the tougher market TV networks have faced in this year’s upfront negotiations, when they try to sell the bulk of their inventory for the coming TV season. Most networks appear to have sold less time in this year’s upfront, while securing price hikes that allow them to maintain similar amounts of volume to last year’s sessions.

Such behavior indicates advertisers are not willing to increase their investment in TV at a time of economic uncertainty, or may want to keep more money closer to hand to spend more nimbly as business conditions dictate.

ABC was able to secure price hikes of between 6% and 7%, according to ad buyers, though the network may have been able to do deals with some advertisers at rates of as high as 8%, the person familiar with the network’s situation said, for clients who required more specific placement and other conditions that necessitated a premium.

Both CBS and the CW held back more inventory than last year to sell later in the "scatter" market. Because ABC’s total dollar volume declined slightly from the 2011 upfront even though it won higher ad rates, once could surmise that ABC also sold less ad time in the upcoming season than it did last year.

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