Magazine article Variety

Networks Offer Ad Men Fresh Sets of Numbers

Magazine article Variety

Networks Offer Ad Men Fresh Sets of Numbers

Article excerpt

THE LINES ARE BEING DRAWN in the annual battle for upfront advertising dollars.

With linear-TV viewing vying with a broad array of new video screens, the media companies that fight each year for billions of dollars in ad cash have trotted out new ideas they hope will catch the skeptical eye of Madison Avenue. There's a need: In February, commercial ratings among viewers between 18 and 49 - the key numbers on which TV ad deals are based - were down high-single to low-double digits in primetime and total day, according to media-industry analyst Michael Nathanson. With that in mind, the new offers from big media companies are meant to entice buyers in different ways:

* CBS recently unveiled "total content ratings" that measure not only linear TV watching but also time-shifted viewing by DVR playback and via video-on-demand. The network intends to add viewing done through online and mobile streaming at a later date.

* Viacom, 21st Century Fox's Fox Networks Group, and Time Warner's Turner are standing behind a new system crafted with tech consultant Accenture that allows for ad purchases based on "big data" measurements of narrower consumer groups, such as firsttime car buyers or expectant mothers.

* NBCUniversal says it hopes to sell $1 billion of its upfront inventory for similar bigdata-based ads that can be aimed at specific audiences.

A king's ransom is at stake. The nation's five big English-language broadcast networks secured between $8.41 billion and $9.25 billion last year in advance ad commitments for primetime as part of the upfront, according to Variety estimates, compared with between $8.02 billion and $8.69 billion the previous year. Those totals don't consider daytime and late-night broadcast inventory, let alone cable. NBCUniversal, for example, secured more than $6 billion in advance ad commitments across its entire portfolio last year.

Perhaps this latest outreach will unwrinkle advertisers' furrowed brows. Ad buyers suggest their clients have sticker shock. As Procter & Gamble and other big consumer packaged-goods giants moved dollars back to TV from digital last year, the rates the networks charged increased. Buyers at the upfronts said the basic CPM measure (the cost of reaching 1,000 viewers), rose in the high-single-digit to low-double-digit percentage range. With viewership off this season, three buyers said, TV network expectations could be too high.

"I can't see volume being up that dramatically," said Jason Kanefsky, chief investment officer at Havas Media. …

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